Working together

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

The bidding for the right to rehabilitate and manage NAIA had been furiously contested. Up to the last moment, there were attempts to undermine the awarding to frontrunner San Miguel. But in the end, there was acceptance of the winner declared by the government. Unlike in many public biddings, the losing bidders did not file a court case questioning the award.

Maybe it is because the winning bid of San Miguel was just too good for the rest to match. The attitude might have been, if San Miguel thinks it is worth their while to bid like that, that’s their lookout. San Miguel added the element of public service in the equation which somewhat reduced the primacy of profit as an overwhelming concern for the bid.

But the most fascinating, if not surprising thing happened. Some of the losing bidders are sounding out San Miguel if they can participate in the project. That’s really the way to go for a country like ours with very limited resources specially for big- ticket projects. We may not always be able to borrow from ODAs and other foreign sources but we should be able to pool our resources for a “must-do” project like making NAIA civilized.

I suspect the consortium led by PureGold’s Lucio Co which was disqualified by the awards committee is most interested to work on the airport project. Lucio Co’s partner, Jeffrey Cheng, is quite invested in NAIA and must be able to keep a foot in the door somehow. I suspect too that Ramon Ang of San Miguel has a soft spot for Co, a billionaire entrepreneur like him, who made his billions not from inherited wealth but by being an effective businessman.

The others who lost the bid to San Miguel are headed by pedigreed taipans who may find it difficult to sublimate their egos to follow the lead of RSA.

Working together is a good thing. A few months before, San Miguel and Metro Pacific agreed to design, build and operate the P72 billion, 88-kilometer Cavite-Batangas Expressway (CBEX) and Nasugbu-Bauan Expressway (NBEX). The project aims to connect MPTC’s Cavite-Laguna Expressway (CALAX) to Bauan, Batangas, making travel easier and more convenient for motorists.  San Miguel runs the STAR tollway from Batangas City that seamlessly connects to SLEX.

RSA related the idea for the new Batangas tollways was initiated by Gov. Hermilando Mandanas when they met at a social event. RSA said he liked the idea and later on, MVP offered to partner in the project and they shook hands on it.

“Our shared commitment to nation-building has led us to this historic collaboration. Together, we aim to deliver world-class road networks that will serve as arteries of progress, growth and development for our country and the Filipino people.  This collaboration stands as a testament to what we can achieve when we are united in purpose,” RSA said.

“Together with SMC, we envisage a future where our CBEX and NBEX can help pave the way for connectivity and economic growth in the CALABARZON region. We look forward to leveraging on our respective strengths for the realization of this vital infrastructure project,” said Manuel V. Pangilinan.

Under the agreement, MPTC and SMC will jointly undertake the construction, operation and maintenance of the 88-kilometer-long toll road projects. This will encompass two vital expressways: one is the 27.06-kilometer CBEX that will establish a crucial link connecting CALAX’ Silang (Aguinaldo) Interchange to Nasugbu, Batangas, while the 60.90-kilometer NBEX will provide seamless connectivity from Nasugbu to Bauan, Batangas. CBEX and NBEX are expected to be completed and open to the public in 2027.

Incidentally, the once business rivals, RSA and MVP, are also the most involved in projects with national significance like infrastructure and food security. They worry not only about their fiduciary responsibilities to their shareholders but also about the country’s future beyond today’s business profits.

Actually, at this stage of our development, our conglomerates should work together for the national good. It makes no sense for the three telcos, for instance, to duplicate their networks in new and hard to reach areas. The goal should be to connect all areas of the country to the Internet. The telcos should divide among themselves the many unserved areas so that the whole country can be connected faster.

Accusations of monopoly or oligopoly could be raised but disregarded for the meantime while we are doing “missionary” projects with our limited capital resources as a country. The Philippine Competition Commission should just be more alert if there is evidence of collusion among the industry participants that goes against the public interest.

Likewise, the property companies should also work together so they don’t overbuild in an area. If Ayala, Megaworld, Filinvest are working on townships in a locality, it makes sense for them to work together with an urban planner. Their projects must not cause congestion to make lives more miserable for everyone. Urban planning is the government’s responsibility but the government has abandoned that a long time ago. The property companies make oodles of money working separately. But as the chaos around us shows, urban planning is a must.

Just look at North EDSA and the Trinoma area. If SM and Ayala had longer conversations about how to develop the area, the situation there would be a lot friendlier. Right now, they are separate republics. It even delayed the construction of the common station for the commuter trains. But it is not too late.

Working together for the public interest works. Our business community should try it more often.



Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on X @boochanco

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