Metro Pacific wants out of NAIA rehab project

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 9) — Metro Pacific Investments Corporation said it is pulling out of the group of big businesses looking to upgrade the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), whose joint proposal had been earlier thumbed down by government.

The conglomerate led by businessman Manny Pangilinan confirmed in a disclsoure that it has advised its partners in the so-called NAIA Consortium of its "intent to withdraw" from the NAIA Rehabilitation Project pending for years now.

The group has proposed a ₱102-billion contract to take on NAIA upgrades and repairs for 15 years, submitting at least three revised proposals to the Department of Transportation since 2019. Now, the agency said it is eyeing additional changes to the proposal on the use of people movers as well as possible layoffs of airport workers.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier said the government was modeling the rehabilitation plan for the main airport after the Clark International Airport, as the two gateways need to maintain daily operations while repair works are underway. Tugade previously threatened to cancel the project as the group seemed to be taking too long with its final pitch to repair the country's premier gateway.

Apart from MPIC, the 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. The big firms also tapped Changi Airport International, the operator of Singapore's airport, for technical support.

READ: Gov't to rehabilitate NAIA on its own if talks with PH firms break down

Pangilinan earlier told reporters it was going to be difficult for his company to join the group, as he cited issues on the payment of real property taxes as a concern.

MPIC had been in hot water since December after President Rodrigo Duterte unleashed a series of public rants against its subsidiary, Maynilad and east zone concessionaire Manila Water for running to an arbitral court in Singapore to demand the Philippine government to pay losses they incurred in supplying water to Metro Manila.

MPIC shares have plunged since. Duterte even ordered to cut short their existing contracts by revoking extensions until 2037, leaving business beyond 2022 uncertain. The administration has also drafted new concession deals with the water firms, which they said should no longer be "onerous" and lopsided to favor the two private firms.

The NAIA project pitch would have to go through the NEDA Board for final approval — a body which Duterte chairs.