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Tycoons’ Manila airport bid challenged by $3-billion offer

Passengers wait in Terminal 2 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. (Edwin Tuyay / Bloomberg)

A venture of Megawide Construction Corp. and GMR Infrastructure Ltd. submitted a $3-billion proposal to upgrade and expand the Philippine capital’s 70-year-old airport, challenging a $6.7-billion bid from a group that includes billionaires John Gokongwei and Lucio Tan.

The GMR-Megawide venture, which is operating and expanding another airport in central Philippines, said it can increase the airfield capacity of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport by as much as 35 percent to as many as 1,000 aircraft movements a day. The project would increase capacity to 72 million passengers a year, they said on Thursday.

“Our detailed master plan takes into account all possible constraints in transforming a fully operational brownfield airport,” Louie Ferrer, president of GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corp., said in a statement. “It aims to maintain the high service levels expected of a world-class airport for the next 18 years.”

While the Philippine government hasn’t opened up the overcrowded airport’s upgrade for bidding, Gokongwei, Tan and partners last month filed an unsolicited proposal for a two-phase project that would allow the hub to handle as many as 100 million passengers. The consortium includes Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc., Ayala Corp., LT Group Inc., Alliance Global Group Inc., Filinvest Development Corp., JG Summit Holdings Inc. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

The tycoons proposed to operate the airport for 25 years and to add a runway. GMR-Megawide, in contrast, offered to build taxiways for the primary runway and extend a second existing airstrip. Adding a third airstrip isn’t viable given land constraints, GMR-Megawide said.

Manila’s airport, named after a politician who was assassinated on its tarmac in 1983, has been ranked among the world’s worst as it handles well beyond the 30 million passengers it was designed for.

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