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Philippine consortium proposes $6.75bn bid to transform Manila's airport

Major conglomerates plan regional hub that competes with Singapore, Thailand

  © AP

MANILA -- A consortium of major Philippine conglomerates has pitched a 350-billion-peso ($6.75 billion) proposal to transform Manila's international airport into a regional aviation hub.

The seven business groups -- Ayala Corp., JG Summit Holdings, Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Alliance Global Group, Metro Pacific Investments, LT Group and Filinvest Development -- submitted a plan to the Department of Transportation on Monday.

The proposal, which includes a master plan with assistance from Singapore's Changi Airports International, seeks to bring the Manila airport's capacity to 100 million passengers over a 35-year concession period.

"We envision a new NAIA [Ninoy Aquino International Airport], a fully-integrated premier gateway that we Filipinos can truly be proud of, backed by the know-how of an experienced technical partner and the strong synergy of seven homegrown teams," Jose Reverente, the consortium's spokesperson, told reporters on Tuesday.

Under the first phase, the consortium plans to spend 100 billion pesos to connect the four existing terminals and expand two of them. It would double the airport's capacity to 65 million passengers annually, and the construction could be completed in four years. The second phase involves the construction of a third runway, Reverente said, but details have yet to be discussed with the government.

Reverente said the group aims to bring the Manila airport on par with regional hubs like the Changi Airport in Singapore and Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.

Representatives from the conglomerates that form part of a consortium to expand the Manila international airport present the proposal to reporters on Feb. 13.

A few years ago, Manila's international airport was voted as the one of the worst airports in the world in an online poll, but recent interior enhancements have improved the hub's image. Still, the airport is operating beyond its design capacity, resulting in frequent flight delays. The airport handled roughly 42 million passengers last year, far beyond its intended capacity of 31 million, Reverente said.

Other local conglomerates are also interested building a new airport, but outside the existing location in the capital. San Miguel has proposed building a new 700-billion-peso gateway in Bulacan Province, north of Manila, while SM Investments and its partner have proposed a new hub south of Manila.

The consortium welcomes other proposals. "We support the multi-airport strategy of the government," Reverente said. "The more the merrier."

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