Bulacan airport to proceed after last two legal hurdles

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

After clearing two final hurdles, San Miguel Aerocity will break ground in Bulacan this month. Congress has franchised for 50 years that new 2,500-hectare international airport north side of megalopolis Manila. Unanimously junked at the Supreme Court was an environment petition against the construction.

“Groundbreaking should be soon, anytime this February,” execs of San Miguel Corp. told The STAR. “No more legal hindrances.”

SMC is to invest P1.5 trillion in the airport and economic zone. It is the largest project in Philippine history by a single company. “We will build from scratch,” said president-COO Ramon S. Ang.

Nearly half, P740 billion, is for transforming raw land into terminals, hangars and four runways, with space for two more. As well, for highways and a railway for rapid access. The rest, P760 billion, is for a power plant, waterworks and other facilities for a new industrial-commercial city.

The project’s immensity necessitated green lighting by the three branches of government. Awarded in 2019, the build-operate-transfer deal underwent rigorous screening in various executive agencies. Performance bonds, environment clearances and government shares in revenues were secured. Requirements and reviews by the transport and finance departments took nearly a year. The House of Reps and Senate spent another half year to study income, value-added and import tax exemptions during construction. That phase is limited to ten years.

No government equity, property or loan is to be extended. The franchise forbids any bailout in case of future SMC losses. No guarantees or subsidies whatsoever.

Government is to get 12-percent revenue share from operations. It becomes the development owner at the end of the concession.

SMC’s Aerocity is designed for 200 million passengers a year. It will decongest the existing Manila International Airport and road traffic. Experts say the country loses up to P4 billion a day in Metro Manila’s air and land jams. Higher property values and consequently taxes can be drawn from Bulacan and surrounding provinces. Government can also earn from corporate and individual taxes from new industries. The project expects to generate a million direct and ancillary jobs during construction and 30 million during operation.

South of Manila, the old MIA has no space for additional runways. The two existing, forming a “T,” stunt any increased takeoffs and landings.

The best solution is to move budget airlines to the 2,400-meter runway at Sangley Point, Cavite. That can improve MIA flight movements while San Miguel Aerocity is being built. Access to Sangley 14 kilometers from MIA needs upgrade, via a two-kilometer branch from the Manila-Cavite Expressway. Commute between the two can be reduced to 15 minutes.

Currently used only for cargo and fish runs, Sangley’s runway needs better drainage against floods from high tide and typhoon. A new rapid-exit taxiway must be paved. No need to move out the Philippine Fleet from its adjacent main port. The Navy and Air Force can even jointly use the runway.

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Since the 1950s “middlemen“ have been demonized as causes of rising prices of pork, beef, poultry, fish, grains, vegetables and fruits. Government’s kneejerk response has always been a price freeze.

It never worked. Middlemen are parts of the supply chain: wholesale buyers at farm-gate, slaughterhouses, mass chicken dressers, transporters and more. Farmers, animal raisers and fishermen have no time or processing capability to supply straight to retailers.

Solutions must be long-term and integrated. National government needs to support food producers with cheap inputs: fertilizers, pesticides, feeds, storage and freezers. Local governments must multiply direct trading centers and rolling stores.

Today, Agriculture Secretary William Dar blames unnamed “mamamakyaw” and “biyahero” as culprits in rising pork and chicken rates in Metro Manila. He got Malacañang to impose a two-month price cap in the capital region starting Feb. 8.

No consultation was made, cries former congressman Nicanor Briones. Had there been one, stakeholders would have told Dar the real issues, says the Luzon VP of the Pork Producers Federation. Those are: African Swine Fever epidemic in Luzon, damage from three successive typhoons, over-importation and smuggling. (Recently a DA bureaucrat attempted to import tilapia from China, but was stopped by protests from raisers in Pampanga and Taal Lake. Last year vegetable and fruit growers in Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog had to dump their harvests for lack of “mamamakyaw” and “biyahero.”)

Price freeze will discourage Luzon piggeries, poultries and distributors from unloading stocks at a loss. Thence they will be accused of hoarding. Further antagonized, some will stop producing altogether. Rushing goods from the Visayas and Mindanao will reduce supplies and increase prices there. Consumers will shift to fish and vegetables. With demand pressuring supply, rising prices will spread nationwide.

Briones suggests a focused solution. Pay hog-raisers P10,000 not only P5,000 for each ASF-infected head surrendered and buried. Cover all raisers, backyard and commercial. That will embolden them to restock, and end the epidemic.

Where to get money? Stop the smuggling and strictly enforce 40-percent duties on imported stocks.

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Paperback copies of “Gotcha: An Exposé on the Philippine Government” can be delivered to you by 8Letters Bookstore and Publishing. To order: GOTCHA by Jarius Bondoc | Shopee Philippines

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