NAIA rehab plan hits another bump as gov't rejects fresh proposal from private contractors

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 7) – It's another stalemate between the government and the group of big businesses looking to upgrade the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

In a joint statement issued Tuesday, members of the NAIA Consortium said its revamped proposal to rehabilitate and upgrade the facilities of the country's biggest airport has been rejected by authorities.

"The far-reaching and long-lasting consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on airline travel, airline operations and airport passenger traffic necessitated a review of the assumptions and plans to ensure that the NAIA project will be viable in the 'new normal,'" the business group said, adding the adjustments were made to "ensure the bankability" of the project.

"Unfortunately, the government indicated that it is not willing to accept most of the consortium's proposed options and the consortium can only move forward with the NAIA project under the options it has proposed," they added.

Asked how this will affect the future of the project, Transportation Undersecretary Ruben Reinoso said via text that the "MIAA (Manila International Airport Authority) will have to decide on next steps."

The NAIA rehabilitation plan has been proposed as early as February 2018 but has not been rolled out since. Prior to the pandemic, the group and the Department of Transportation had already been tossing proposals back and forth.

The NAIA Consortium is composed of Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc.; AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp.; Alliance Global Group, Inc.; Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corp.; Filinvest Development Corp.; and JG Summit Holdings, Inc. Tycoon Manny Pangilinan's Metro Pacific Investments Corporation said in March that it will leave the NAIA Consortium, citing issues with real property taxes.

The global coronavirus crisis has paralyzed air travel and tourism for months now, with major airlines abroad going bottom up. Local operators Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and AirAsia have resorted to layoffs to keep their businesses afloat.

The original contract price for the NAIA rehab plan was set at ₱350 billion for a 35-year concession period, which was scaled down to ₱102 billion for a 15-year deal.

RELATED: House bill seeks to rename NAIA

DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier said that they are modeling the rehabilitation plan for the country’s main gateway after the Clark International Airport, as the two gateways need to maintain daily operations while repair works are underway. He once threatened to cancel the project as the group seemed to be taking too long with its final pitch to repair the airport.

In November, the group's plan to repair NAIA already secured final approval from the government, which will trigger a Swiss challenge to check if other firms can submit a more competitive counter-proposal. If there's none, the consortium will officially bag the project and will operate the gateway during the concession period.

NAIA has grown congested without any alternative gateways to the country. Duterte previously ordered the DOTr to have the Sangley airport in Cavite usable for general aviation in a bid to ease air traffic in Manila.

Separately, the government has approved the plan of billionaire Ramon Ang to build the New Manila International Airport in Bulakan, Bulacan for ₱734 billion.