Audacity
FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - September 21, 2019 - 12:00am

For ten years, Ramon Ang waited patiently while bureaucrats hewed and hawed, ran a fine comb for possible faults in his plan and generally bided their time.

Had they acted promptly, we would now have an airport comparable to the huge Beijing Daxing International Airport due to be operational in a few months. We would not be enduring the effects of airport congestion, including the high costs it imposes on passengers.

His was, after all, a staggering proposal. He was proposing to build a very large airport at a cost of P735 billion. It would have an initial four runways with provision for two more. The terminal will have 180 gates and could accommodate a hundred million passengers a year.

The proposal was, to say the least, audacious.

This week, San Miguel Corp. and the Department of Transportation finally signed the go-ahead agreement for an astounding airport facility that, for many years, existed only as a scale model at the lobby of the corporation’s headquarters. By December, SMC will be ready to break ground on what will be a modern airport and regional logistics hub.

At a cost of about a trillion pesos, peripheral access included, this will be the largest private sector-initiated property development project in our economic history. The Bonifacio Global City (BGC) covers 246 hectares. The SMC Bulacan Airport project will be many times larger. The land to be donated to government alone by the airport project, for use by various agencies, amounts to 200 hectares.

Among the truly attractive aspects of this project is that it reuses what had become virtually dead real estate in the marshlands just north of Malabon and Navotas. The large estate, accumulated over many years, used to be salt beds and fishponds. Subsidence, flooding and the terrible pollution of Manila Bay rendered the area economically useless.

Eventually, LRT-7 will be extended to link the main terminal to the commuter rail. The line will eventually loop around the harbor and into the heart of Manila. An elevated expressway will eventually be built to reduce travel time to the city to mere minutes.

The Bulacan airport project has been described as a “game-changer.” It will boost our economic performance.

The project will upgrade property prices for the northern half of Metro Manila. It will produce a logistics hub for the entire East Asian region. It will provide maintenance facilities for the booming budget carriers across the region. It will, of course, decongest our single-runway airport that simply cannot accommodate the burgeoning air traffic – nor even accommodate the largest passenger planes in the industry.

If we are ever able to escalate our GDP growth to beyond 7 percent, it will because of visionary large-scale projects like this one.

Elevate

On the day the airport agreement was signed, Ramon Ang astounded everyone by proposing to build an elevated 10-lane, all-steel road above congested EDSA. That is the only viable solution to the infernal traffic jams that victimize everyone in this metropolis.

It is going to be ugly, to be sure. But it will certainly be functional.

It may be more expensive, but it could be built very quickly. Ang projects he could build the road in 24 to 30 months. Traffic congestion is costing us billions each day.

All the other cities in the region faced with traffic congestion solved their woes by elevating the roads. Even if less than 10 lanes are built, the elevated road could be equipped with a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) that could take out the misbehaving buses at ground level.

After much bureaucratic delay, the elevated connector road linking the SLEX-STAR (also operated by San Miguel) with the NLEX is due to be completed by December. Ang is planning to line this elevated expressway with a BRT service, attracting commuters by dropping fares. This project will bring palpable relief to our traffic woes.

I served with the DBP when the bank handled the bidding for the NAIA elevated road project. We were floored by the San Miguel offer, which was many heads higher than any offered by the competition. Today, that elevated road project has proven a profitable venture. The road makes investment in the reclaimed area viable.

The STAR expressway itself was a far-sighted undertaking. It has made the Batangas port viable and opened investment opportunities in Batangas. Today, San Miguel plans to extend this expressway farther to the south. 

San Miguel also has plans for an expressway running from Bulacan to the Cagayan Valley. This, too, will have dramatic effects on the logistics-challenged local economies along this route.

During a recent conversation, I asked Ramon Ang what else he wanted to do. He said he wanted to operate a railway line that runs from the Ilocos in the north to Sorsogon in the south. If realized, this line could provide Luzon’s economy a literally iron logistics spine.

Under Ramon Ang’s leadership, San Miguel has been able to fuse the financial prowess of the nation’s largest conglomerate with the patriotic vision of providing for the nation’s development needs. That created a synergy that gets great things done.

Napoleon Bonaparte, before every major battle, assembled his generals and exhorted them with these words: “Audacity. Audacity. At all times audacity.”

Audacity means looking beyond the limits of what might ordinarily seem possible. It means advancing boldly, imagining courageously and achieving what other had not thought achievable.

Ramon Ang is San Miguel’s Napoleon. And his generals deliver as a matter of course.

RAMON ANG SAN MIGUEL CORPORATION
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