Bulacan airport deal signed, construction to start December

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Design study for the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 18) — San Miguel Corporation (SMC) will start building a new international airport in Bulacan after securing an official contract from the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade signed the concession agreement on Wednesday which officially awards the ₱734-billion deal to SMC unit San Miguel Aerocity Inc. He also gave the green light for SMC to build, operate, and maintain the New Manila International Airport as he issued the notice to proceed with the project.

Tugade and San Miguel President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon Ang signed the agreement at the ASEAN Convention Center inside the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga. The deal grants a 50-year concession period for SMHC to operate the airport, with no government guarantee or subsidies and the right-of-way costs shouldered by the private firm.

"We may be able to do groundbreaking before the end of the year," Ang said during a media briefing, noting that construction will start in December. He added that engineering works have started two years ago.

San Miguel secured the deal as no other companies presented counter-proposals to the company's unsolicited proposal back in August.

LOOK: San Miguel gives a sneak peek into proposed Bulacan airport

SMC put forward the new airport proposal back in 2016. It will be built on a 2,500 hectare property in Bulakan town, about 30 kilometers northeast of Metro Manila. Ang described the project as a "game-changer" for tourism — with an expected 30 million tourists flying in — as well as for the economy of Central Luzon.

The main goal is to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which has been the main entry and exit point to Manila for air travelers. Apart from the Bulacan gateway, work is also underway to expand the use of the Sangley Airport in Cavite for local flights. President Rodrigo Duterte mandated that the alternative airport south of Manila be operational by November.

Tugade said with more gateways, air travel would be more "comfortable and convenient" for Filipinos.

READ: Residents seek relocation as Bulacan airport construction nears

The planned international gateway will feature four runways and can accommodate up to 200 million passengers per year, and will sit close to the Clark International Airport. But Ang said the Bulacan gateway would be 15 minutes away from Balintawak in Quezon City, marking a comparative advantage versus Clark, which he said could take a two-hour drive.

All four runways will be completed by the fifth year of construction, which is within the four to six-year period given by DOTr for the airport completion. 

The project also involves building an 8.4-kilometer tollway that will connect the "aerotropolis" to the North Luzon Expressway in Marilao, Bulacan. Apart from this, the planned airport would also be accessible through the Skyway Stage 3 link which will cut travel time even when coming from Southern Luzon.

SMC has revealed that it will be tapping foreign builders and designers for the project, which include the makers of Singapore's Changi Airport and France's Charles de Gaulle Airport.