Laguindingan Airport to face Swiss challenge

Elijah Felice Rosales - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Aboitiz Group should find out by the end of the year if another entity will challenge its bid to deliver the P13 billion upgrade of the Laguindingan Airport.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will initiate a Swiss challenge for the P12.75 billion deal to operate and maintain the Laguindingan Airport toward the end of the year.

Transportation Undersecretary Timothy John Batan told reporters that negotiations with Aboitiz InfraCapital Inc. (AIC) began in the first week of September, and talks are expected to last for 80 days based on the timetable.

At that pace, negotiations will conclude by the end of November, although the DOTr may extend the talks if deemed necessary. Afterward, the DOTr will turn over the results of the discussions to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board for its review.

At the earliest, the DOTr may open the Swiss challenge for the project by December. Under this, the agency will give other parties the opportunity to match AIC’s bid within 60 days.

As the original proponent, however, AIC maintains the right to counter new proposals, and it will bag the project automatically if no other bids are filed.

“Negotiations are ongoing. We started negotiations in the first week of September. There is an 80-day period for negotiations. If necessary, that will be extended, but the baseline is 80 days. After that, we report to the NEDA Board and then we proceed with the Swiss challenge,” Batan said.

In 2019 AIC, the infrastructure arm of the Aboitiz Group, landed the original proponent status to operate and maintain the Laguindingan Airport.

However, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista demanded AIC to resubmit its proposal given the changes made by the government in the Build-Operate-Transfer Law. The project mandates the concessionaire to spend a minimum of P12.75 billion for the expansion of the Laguindingan Airport.

Specifically, the project involves building new terminals and widening existing ones to prepare the gateway for future demand. The concessionaire will be given 35 years to complete all of the deliverables under the contract.

Last year the Aboitiz Group stamped its entry in airport operations by acquiring the operator of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport for a sum of P25 billion.

Apart from this, the Aboitiz Group forms part of the Manila International Airport Consortium, a group of six Philippine conglomerates and a foreign partner vying for the package to rehabilitate and upgrade the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

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