After scrapped deal, new offer made to build Sangley international airport
MANILA, Philippines — A new alliance led by tycoons Lucio Tan and Helen Yuchengco-Dee and investment banker Luis Virata has submitted a $10.9-billion unsolicited proposal to develop a world-class international airport in Sangley Point, a former US naval base, in partnership with the local government of Cavite.
SPIA Development Consortium will be the corporate vehicle for the project and it is backed by Samsung C&T Corp. of South Korea, Munich Airport International GmbH, and London-based engineering and architecture services firm Arup Group.
The group said in a statement on Sunday that the proposal had been submitted by SPIA to the office of Cavite Gov. Juanito Victor “Jonvic” Remulla.
This reopens the possibility of the Sangley Point airport project being revived after Cavite earlier canceled the public-private partnership project awarded to a consortium of Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corp. and the state-run China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. (CCCC).
The proposal keeps MacroAsia in the game to provide management and technical services for the aviation support and logistics component of the project. However, it will be a nonequity member of the consortium.
Phase 1A of the project, which includes the construction of a new highway, is estimated to cost $2.3 billion and allow the new airport to serve 15 million passengers a year. Phase 1B will require $2 billion to boost the capacity to 25 million passengers.
Another $6.6 billion is budgeted for the second phase of the project to bring airport capacity to 75 million passengers annually.
Virata is participating through Cavitex Holdings Inc., the company responsible for the development, design and construction of the 14-kilometer Manila-Cavite Expressway project. This toll road was eventually acquired by the group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan.
No bidder by Oct. 20
The unsolicited proposal was submitted after the second bidding for the airport project failed with no bidder by the Oct. 20 deadline.
In December 2019, the joint venture of China’s CCCC and MacroAsia emerged as the sole bidder for the Sangley Point airport project. The bidding attracted criticism due to the presence of a Chinese company in what is considered a critical piece of infrastructure. CCCC played a role in building artificial islands in disputed parts of the West Philippine Sea.
In January 2021, Remulla said his office approved a recommendation by the provincial Special Selection Committee to cancel the award granted to CCCC and MacroAsia.
The new proposal is being pitched to provide an alternative international gateway for Metro Manila, thereby easing the congestion at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) while boosting economic growth and enhancing the local tourism and aviation industries.
The consortium said it was ready to start full project development activities as soon as the project award is granted.
“We share the vision of delivering SPIA (Sangley Point International Airport) as a modern, world-class, efficient and green international hub airport and new main gateway to the country that Caviteños and all Filipinos will be truly proud of,” SPIA Consortium said.
The group said it envisioned Sangley airport to become a “fully modernized, world-class and green airport that is designed to expand as demand for air transport services increases in the next 30 to 40 years, and as operations at Naia are eventually phased out to allow for a redevelopment of the site and its surrounding areas.”
Foreign consortium member Samsung C&T built the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, the iconic Burj Khalifa in Dubai, Terminal 1 of Incheon International Airport and the extension of Changi Airport.
Munich Airport International GmbH is the management services arm of Munich Airport, Europe’s only five-star airport and “certified best airport for the past 14 years,” the consortium noted.
Proximity to Naia
Sangley Point was used by the Chinese pirate Limahong in 1574 as his refuge when he fled after a failed attempt to take Manila. Sangley Point was also used as a military base by the American and Japanese troops in the past. It is now occupied by the Philippine Navy for ship repair and dry docking.
The transformation of Sangley Point into an international airport has been one of several proposals made in a bid to decongest Naia since 2014.
The Sangley airport project, about 11 km west of Naia, was studied and proposed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency during the Aquino administration.
In its initial review in 2015, the P435.9-billion SPIA would be able to handle about 55 million passengers annually when it opens in 2025, and could be expanded to handle 130 million passengers a year by 2050.
The plan, however, never took off in the previous administration and has become one of the Duterte administration’s key infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program. In February 2020, President Duterte inaugurated Sangley airport, which boasted a 2.4-km runway that would be used for general aviation and turboprop cargo operations.
—With a report from Inquirer Research
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