THE infrastructure arm of Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. (AEV) has submitted a P148-billion unsolicited proposal to the transportation department for the expansion, operation and maintenance of four major Philippine regional airports over the next three and a half decades.
Aboitiz InfraCapital Inc. proposed to increase the capacity of the following airports in the Visayas and Mindanao: Iloilo International Airport, Bacolod-Silay Airport, Laguindingan Airport and New Bohol International Airport in Panglao.
Sabin Aboitiz, the company’s president, said his group intends to modernize and expand the first three airports immediately, as these hubs are already operating above capacity and require urgent rehabilitation.
The New Bohol is eyed to open the island further to the international-tourism market as part of the national tourism strategy. This move will also decongest Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Aboitiz said.
“Through this unsolicited proposal, we intend to support the government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program as we develop sustainable airport facilities that reflect and support the tremendous economic and tourism potential of the Philippines’s regions and provinces,” he added.
The aforesaid regions have been experiencing tremendous growth in the last few years. The airports have struggled to follow the pace of the development. The Iloilo and Bacolod airports have been operating for 10 years, while Laguindingan started operating in 2013, but has been operating above its capacity since its opening year.
Aboitiz said the P148-billion multiphased project will “transform the facilities into world-class airports every Filipino deserves and can be proud of.”
The government earlier identified the modernization of the regional airports as a critical infrastructure project and launched a tender for a public-private partnership for five airports under the build-operate-transfer law in 2014, but this plan was canceled in 2017.
Aboitiz said the “pooling of resources” to develop, operate and maintain all four airports is required in order to “unlock synergies” that would benefit all stakeholders, including the government.
“Not only will none of the airports require any form of subsidy. The combined potential of the four regional gateways results in overall gains for both the government and the local economy,” he said.
The company hopes to receive the award for the unsolicited proposal this year.
Unsolicited proposals, under law, are required to undergo a Swiss challenge, where other groups will be given the chance to submit proposals that will compete with the original proponent’s offer.
The original proponent will then have the chance to offer a counter proposal.
If an award materializes within the year, Aboitiz said his group could start working with the relevant government and community stakeholders to improve operations and passenger experience in 2019.