Top Indian builder of airports eyes more projects

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Top Indian builder of airports eyes more projects
Airplanes are seen at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on May 16, 2023.
STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — A leading conglomerate in India is looking at investing in the Philippines, particularly in airports, roads and energy projects, Malacañang said yesterday.

Top executives of GMR Group, led by its chairman Kiran Kumar Grandhi, paid a courtesy visit to President Marcos at Marriott Hotel Singapore on the sidelines of Marcos’ attendance at the 2023 Asian Summit on Wednesday.

Aside from its interest in the Sangley airport project, GMR is one of five investors that bought bid documents as of Sept. 13 for the P170.6-billion NAIA Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project, according to the Presidential Communications Office.

The Indian firm has been in the Philippines for the past 11 years, operating the Mactan and Clark airports, according to PCO.

The GMR Group is a multinational conglomerate headquartered in New Delhi. The company also operates in Indonesia and Turkey.

The National Economic and Development Authority Board, chaired by Marcos, approved in July the P170.6-billion NAIA rehabilitation project.

PCO said GMR officials offered to provide long-term solution to the Philippines, especially in infrastructure and energy.

Grandhi was accompanied by his brother-in-law Srinivas Bommidala, chairman of GMR Airports and the one in charge of the group’s international airports and energy interests.

With Marcos during his meeting with Grandhi and his group were his cousin Speaker Martin Romualdez, financial advisor to the Sangley Consortium for international investment to the Philippines Liu Chee Ming and Robinsons Land Corp. president and chief executive officer and presidential adviser on investment and economic affairs Frederick Go.

According to Bommidala, the group was founded by his father-in-law, Grandhi Mallikarjuna Rao in 1978.

“In 1994, we went into highways. In 1999, when India privatized (the) airports, we built airport, six airports in India,” Bommidala told the President.

Marcos expressed hope the Indian firm could help in the improvement of the country’s airports, roads and energy infrastructure.

“Definitely we need to improve the capacity that serves Manila. Sangley, the one of Ramon Ang. Anything you build it will get full. I don’t worry, all my experience in major infrastructure, you think it’s overcapacity, three years later you’ll building some more,” Marcos was quoted by the PCO as saying.

“And we want that especially when it comes to travel, tourism, business travel, etc. We want it to increase as much as possible. I’m glad that you are looking at the Philippines,” he said.

Marcos told GMR’s top officials that building major infrastructure is part of his administration’s economic agenda to advance development.

“We’ve been trying, the reason, we go to this process, is that it is a major part of our economic program. Well, of course Manila is the gateway, even regional airports we are starting to develop, so that not everyone have to get to Sangley or Bulacan,” Marcos said.

Leonides Virata, Cavitex Holdings chief executive officer and Sangley Consortium leader, said GMR sees Sangley’s potential in resolving airport congestion issues in the Philippines. Cavitex Holdings is GMR’s local partner.

According to Virata, the plan is to start Sangley airport construction next year, noting that the consortium is just awaiting government clearances before commencing spade work.

The consortium will start construction of the Sangley airport next year and will try to finish the runway in the next five years, he said.

Marcos, who celebrated his 66th birthday on Wednesday, is set to watch the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix 2023 this weekend.

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