CLARK, Pampanga: Listed San Miguel Corp. (SMC) can now begin building its $15-billion New Manila International Airport (NMIA) in Bulacan province after signing a concession agreement on it with the Department of Transportation (DoTr) on Wednesday.
In a briefing here, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said he also signed the Notice to Proceed for the project, allowing the conglomerate to start constructing the 2,400-hectare air hub in the province’s Bulakan town.
For his part, San Miguel President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon Ang said the groundbreaking for the airport — which is expected to help ease congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport — might happen in December.
“This is going to be a game-changer project,” Ang said, adding that the NMIA could improve the country’s profile and increase investment opportunities.
“It will help raise tourism levels to 30 million annually, similar to Thailand; generate over a million direct and indirect jobs, revive local economies and [grow] new ones; accelerate exports; and help our country attract more foreign investments,” he said.
SMC plans to build four runways, eight taxiways and three passenger terminals that are expected to accommodate up to 100 million passengers annually. Depending on market forces, two additional runways may also be built to accommodate up to 200 million flyers.
The conglomerate has tapped global engineering firms Groupe ADPi, Meinhardt Group and Jacobs to design the airport and allow it to withstand extreme weather conditions for 100 years.
For funding, SMC is looking at 30 percent of the cost to come from equity, and the remaining 70 percent from bank loans, Ang said, adding that his group were in talks with American and Chinese lenders.
For his part, Transportation Undersecretary for Planning and Project Development Ruben Reinoso told reporters that SMC had committed to finish two runways and make these operational in three to four years and cater to 35 million passengers.
SMC would also build an 8-kilometer tollway from the NMIA to the North Luzon Expressway before the airport becomes operational, he said.
According to the DoTr official said the firm was also thinking of linking the San Jose del Monte station of the Metro Rail Transit Line 7 to the airport.
SMC has also secured environment clearance despite calls from environmental advocacy groups to not pursue the project amid the risks it posed to the Manila Bay ecosystem.
Ang said his company would ensure the project would not adversely impact the environment, and that it would help the province in solving its flood problems.
Enticing low-cost carriers
Also on Wednesday, Ang told reporters that SMC was in talks with international low-cost carriers to service flights at the NMIA.
“As early as now, as early as five years before the Bulacan airport opens, nandito na lahat ng low-cost carrier na kinakausap ako (there are low-cost carriers talking to me here),” Ang said on the sidelines of the inauguration of the Better World Tondo food bank in Manila, which took place before the agreement signing at Clark.
Among them were Indonesia-based PT Lion Mentari Airlines and Australia-based Jetstar Airways Pty. Ltd, Ang added.
According to him, these airlines were also asking for landing slots and even offering to build a terminal.
SMC shares increased by P1.40 or 0.81 percent to finish at P174 apiece on Wednesday. WITH TYRONE C. PIAD