When seven of the country’s biggest conglomerates agree to pool their resources and modernize the country’s premier gateway, they mean serious business and the government must respond correspondingly.
The seven companies that formally submitted an unsolicited proposal to the Department of Transportation to rehabilitate and expand the capacity of Ninoy Aquino International Airport at a cost of P350 billion are owned by the who’s who of Philippine business—the Aboitizes, Ayalas, Andrew Tan of Megaworld Corp., Lucio Tan, the Gotianun Group, John Gokongwei and the PLDT Group of Indonesia’s Anthoni Salim.
The seven conglomerates plan to build an additional runway that will ensure the ability of Naia to serve as Manila’s gateway for years to come, and bring the potential capacity up to 100 million passengers a year from over 40 million passengers in 2017.
The ambitious project and the upgrade of the existing airport is timely and badly needed. The Philippines lags in foreign tourist arrivals compared with those of Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, not to mention tiny Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. Tourism draws big foreign exchange revenues to hotels, transportation systems and the local communities. It fuels the economy and generates jobs.
But the Philippine tourism industry needs a modern airport as the main anchor to lure foreign tourists. Naia’s upgrade will hopefully correct the sector’s weakness.
The super consortium is tapping the services of global premier airport operator Changi Airports International Pte. Ltd., which runs the main Singapore airport, to provide technical support in the areas of master planning, operations optimization and commercial development.
Critical to the success of the project is the link of Naia’s three terminals to the existing mass transport system in Metro Manila and an option for a third runway. When completed, the project will elevate Naia to the level of major regional airports such as Changi in Singapore and Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok and make it a viable transit hub in Southeast Asia.
The Naia modernization is one infrastructure project that the government of President Rodrigo Duterte must fast-track. It will mirror the county’s economic development and test the determination of the present regime to move forward.