Delayed NAIA upgrade

"Who is behind the aggressive push against the airport’s rehabilitation?"


What could be the possible reason for a lawmaker to launch a media offensive against a project that no less than President Rodrigo Duterte wants completed ASAP: the rehabilitation of NAIA, our main international airport? 

 In the middle of the media blitz is PBA (Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta) Partylist Representative Jericho Nograles whose constituents are supposed to be athletes.

The lawmaker has been questioning the integrity of Megawide, a qualified and globally recognized company in the Philippines with the technical expertise and proven track record in building and operating an award-winning international airport.

Megawide not only built (ahead of schedule) and successfully operates the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA); it is also about to inaugurate the Clark International Airport which will probably be as impressive and even more so than the acclaimed MCIA.

These are a small part of the 1,000 more projects it has either completed or is currently working on. Yet, the party-list lawmaker claims that the company is not qualified for the renovation of NAIA despite its capability to complete and operate world-class projects. 

What’s the lawmaker’s beef against  Megawide? One, its foreign partner GMR Infrastructure has pulled out. And second, it lacks the required equity as set by NEDA.

Recent documents, however, as well as public announcements from Megawide’s Chairman and CEO, Edgar Saavedra, prove that their partnership with GMR is intact and that they have completed the required funding of $2.3 billion.

Furthermore, Megawide Corp recently received an encouraging letter from President Duterte which reads: “Your impressive work in the development and operation of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport strongly affirms how dynamic public-private relationships can lead to successful ventures that redound to the benefit of our people.”

In the same letter, Duterte said that Megawide should be inspired “to explore and pursue more innovative solutions to boost our tourism and transport industries, even amidst the challenges of COVID-19.”

Is the party-list congressman opposing the Megawide proposal because his athlete-constituents asked him to do so? Seriously, why would our athletes oppose a huge, noble endeavor? 

If not the athletes, who is/are behind Nograles’ aggressive push against NAIA rehabilitation by Megawide?

Is it the NAIA super consortium, other airport proponents who want NAIA to remain as it is or who might be adversely affected, or could it be a totally new player in the airport business who wants to take over the NAIA project as well?

The NAIA super consortium which launched a bid for the NAIA rehab project and lost was composed of seven of the largest conglomerates in the Philippines. The tycoons behind them are the Ayalas, Aboitiz, Andrew Tan, Lucio Tan, Gotianun, Manny Pangilinan and Gokongwei. It is very unlikely though as they have already dissolved the consortium.

In the super consortium there is one particular tycoon missing: Ramon Ang of San Miguel Corporation. That’s because he is building his own airport in Bulacan and the NAIA rehab is not a threat to his project. In fact, NAIA’s development will even complement his airport project that’s still several years away.

Another airport project is Sangley Airport in Cavite. NAIA located in the south of Manila could threaten the viability of Sangley Airport. The Cavite governor has even suggested that NAIA should be converted into an open park to decongest the area leading to the province.

There are many current stakeholders who are raking in good money with their existing contracts in NAIA. Obviously a change in management may change their fortunes similar to what happens when there is a change in the top national leadership especially if the one who wins is from the opposing camp.

However, Megawide is also known for formulating win-win solutions for stakeholders. Concerns regarding job security were raised when Megawide was awarded the Mactan Cebu International Airport contract. The company made a firm commitment to keep jobs intact and even increased the hiring, giving more jobs to people in the community.

For the NAIA upgrade, Megawide CEO Saavedra has given assurances that “all 14,000 jobs at NAIA will be secured” and that Megawide and its partner GMR, the world’s fourth largest airport operator, have complied with the equity requirement set by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

Given all this, there doesn’t seem to be any cogent reason for Megawide to be raked over the coals at this point when NAIA rehabilitation should really be fast-tracked so it can contribute further to our travel and tourism industry and to overall economic growth. The lawmaker ought to clear the air and adequately explain to his constituents—and the public at large—why the project should not be given to Megawide when it has sufficiently answered the two main arguments raised against it.

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Ninoy Aquino International Airport , NAIA rehabilitation , Megawide , Rep. Jericho Nograles
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