Philippines attracts four bids for main airport’s $3 billion upgrade

By Neil Jerome Morales and Mikhail Flores

MANILA (Reuters) -The Philippines on Wednesday pre-qualified four bidders for a 170.6 billion pesos ($3 billion) upgrade of its main international airport, the transportation ministry said.

The aging Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the fifth largest in Southeast Asia, needs an upgrade to solve chronic flight delays and passenger congestion issues.

Some travel service firms have ranked the airport as one of the worst for international business travellers and for passenger queuing times.

“This is a very important project of the government as we want all our passengers improved travel experience,” Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said on Wednesday. “You all know this airport is very, very congested.”

Companies that submitted bids were the Manila International Airport Consortium, Asian Airport Consortium, GMR Airports Consortium, and SMC SAP & Co Consortium, the bids and awards committee said.

These four have submitted the required documents, and the transportation ministry allowed them to go through to the next round of evaluations.

Transportation Undersecretary Timothy John Batan said they expect to award the contract on February 15 and sign the concession agreement on March 15. The deal covers a 15-year concession that is extendable by another 10 years.

The consortiums were made up of units of the largest Philippine conglomerates and major airport operators in Asia and Europe. The Transportation Ministry listed the names of the companies in the four consortiums.

Manila International Airport Consortium is made up of U.S.-based Global Infrastructure Partners, Filinvest Development Corp. and units of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Alliance Global Group, Ayala Corp, JG Summit Holdings and Asian Emerging Dragon Corp.

Asian Airport Consortium includes Indonesia’s PT Angkasa Pura II, which operates the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Cosco Capital Inc. and two other companies.

India’s GMR group is partnering with House of Investments and Cavitex Holdings Inc for their own tender.

The SMC SAP consortium includes a unit of San Miguel Corp, South Korea’s Incheon International Airport Corp and two other companies. San Miguel is also building a $13.3 billion airport in Bulacan province, north of the capital Manila.

NAIA handled a record 48 million passengers in 2019 despite its designed capacity of only 32 million passengers. The upgraded airport aims to serve at least 60 million passengers annually from the current 35 million.

Previous attempts to modernise the gateway were abandoned due to disputes between airport authorities, contractors, and potential bidders.

Known for white sandy beaches and tropical weather, the Philippines targets attracting 7.7 million foreign tourists in 2024, though still below the pre-pandemic record of 8.26 million in 2019, to boost one of Asia’s fastest growing economies.

($1 = 55.6860 Philippine pesos)

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales and Mikhail Flores; editing by Francesco Guarascio and Jane Merriman)