Clark, Pampanga—The Department of Transportation gave food, drinks and infrastructure conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) clearance to build a P735-billion international airport complex in Bulacan province and combat traffic on Manila’s skies.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said he signed the notice to proceed on Wednesday.
This will allow SMC to start work on the New Manila International Airport, the first project in more than a decade to address worsening congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
During the signing of the concession agreement on Wednesday, SMC president Ramon Ang called the airport the “most meaningful project” in recent years.
“This airport will be a game changer for the industry and for our economy,” said Ang, who expects to hold the groundbreaking ceremony on December this year.
Naia, which last year served about 14 million passengers more than its 31 million annual design capacity, is located in the Metro Manila cities of Parañaque and Pasay, and had limited expansion options.
Its last major expansion was the 2008 opening of Naia Terminal 3, a project that was delayed for years due to corruption allegations.
According to SMC, the New Manila International Airport will rise on a 2,400-hectare property in Bulakan, Bulacan province, located about 50 kilometers northwest of Manila.
It will open within five years with four runways, eight taxiways and three passenger terminals with an annual capacity of at least 100 million passengers.
The conglomerate, which will control the airport over a 50-year concession period, is in talks with Japanese, Korean and European airport operators, Ang said on Wednesday.
SMC also promised lofty goals, with the new airport seen to boost the economy by P900 billion a year, help solve flooding in parts of Bulacan, and aid in luring 30 million tourists a year—more than four times the figure in 2018.
“It’s a game changer because we can come up with a facility that will compete with the world-class airports all over Asia and all over the world,” Tugade said on Wednesday.
At home, the New Manila International Airport will also have competition from existing gateways. One alternative to Naia is the Clark International Airport in Pampanga province, about 100 km away from Manila.
But with the completion of expressways that will coincide with the opening of its airport, Ang said travel time between Manila and Bulakan would be a 30-minute trip versus two hours for Clark Airport.
Apart from Clark, a consortium of seven tycoons is proposing to upgrade and operate Naia over a 15-year period. The National Economic and Development Authority has yet to approve the project.
Tugade said multiple airports would benefit the public. “Let it be a battle of commercial competitiveness,” he said on Wednesday.
The New Manila International Airport will be funded with debt and potential “new equity.”
Displaced fishpond workers will be relocated and given support and training, SMC said. The company will also clean nearby rivers, build a flood barrier and spillway to help solve perennial flooding in the area.
SMC earlier tapped global engineering firms Groupe ADP, Meinhardt Group and Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. for the airport’s design.
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