Revitalizing NAIA

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Talk of the town these first days of the new year is the promise of a new Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

It looks like we’ve moved closer to seeing this promise come to life now that the Department of Transportation headed by Sec. Jaime “JJB” Bautista, achieved a major milestone with the successful launch of the NAIA modernization process through the solicited route.

Everyone’s waiting with bated breath.

Will we finally see an end to the dizzying chaos in our main gateway which we’ve all experienced not once but many times over? Or see the gridlocked traffic outside the terminals finally disappear? Will the “One of the World’s Worst Airports” tag be replaced with better labels?

Time will tell.

While the bidding process was not extended, which would have attracted more bidders, we at least have four groups vying for the modernization of the country’s main gateway.

Our transportation authorities and advisor Asian Development Bank deserve a pat on the back for ensuring a smooth process.

Of course, opting for the solicited route, as Sec. JJB wanted early on, was the smarter choice, as it highlighted the government’s commitment to fairness and transparency, fostering healthy competition among the bidders. It also instills confidence among the public.

It’s actually a puzzle why the so-called Super Consortium submitted a non-solicited proposal early on despite Sec. JJB saying it will be a solicited process. But that’s water under the bridge now.

Despite the delay, here we are now, moving forward.

The four groups that submitted bids are all powerhouse blocks.

San Miguel Corp., led by the indefatigable tycoon Ramon S. “RSA” Ang, is a strong contender, based on its successful track record in both solicited and unsolicited big-ticket infrastructure projects.

Also, with RSA and tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) now BFFs, they may also be combining their expertise in infrastructure, although the MVP Group opted out of past airport proposals. Still, an exchange of ideas between the two infra experts may be good.

Of course, I’m only guessing. The official members of the SMC-led consortium are San Miguel Holdings Corp., RMM Asian Logistics, RLW Aviation Development and Incheon International Airport Corp.

The Super Consortium, officially known as the Manila International Airport Consortium, no doubt is a big group which combines the expertise of the country’s biggest conglomerates: Aboitiz, Ayala, Alliance Global, Lucio Tan Group, Filinvest and JG Summit.

Individually, the members all have successful track records as well in their respective projects but as a group, their past submissions were bogged down by demands the past administrations could not meet. Thus, they backed out.

It is a “third time’s the charm” for the group, which in the past has submitted NAIA proposals in one form or another? We’ll have to wait and see.

And then there’s the Asian Airport Consortium which includes Asian Infrastructure, Lucio Co’s Cosco Capital Inc. and Philippine Skylanders.

Another strong contender is the GMR Airports Consortium which comprises India’s GMR Group (the partner of Megawide in the pre-Aboitiz era Mactan-Cebu Airport); the Virata Group’s Cavitex Holdings Inc. and Yuchengco-led House of Investments, which is chaired by the indefatigable lady tycoon Helen Yuchengco Dee.

GMR has recently partnered with Groupe ADP, which owns and manages France’s international airports.

The next challenge for the administration is to choose the best offer and to look at each group closely. Members must have a good track record.

I fervently hope this time, the NAIA modernization succeeds. The process must be fair, transparent and done with the interest of the Filipino people in mind.

After all, the revitalization of NAIA is not just another infrastructure project; it is a promise to the Filipino people to finally have a world-class gateway.

May the best offer and the best team win.

Enrique Razon receives Pandemic Heroes Award

Speaking of winners, congratulations to ports and casino tycoon Enrique Razon for being bestowed by the Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association (PMAAAI) the Pandemic Heroes Award.

“PMAAAl has unanimously voted to confer on you the Pandemic Heroes Award,” the group said in a letter to Razon dated Dec. 27.

It cited Razon’s initiatives “in the procurement of vaccines for the Philippine Government and facilitating roll-outs, built testing, isolation, quarantine and vaccination facilities that benefited not only our fellow cavaliers but the whole citizenry.”

The award will be presented to Razon on Feb. 17 during the Alumni Parade at the PMA’s Fort del Pilar in Baguio, according to the letter signed by Cavalier Ramon Punzalan ’76, chairman of the Awards Committee.

The PMAAAI made the right choice. It is a recognition that is no doubt well deserved by a man who played a significant role in the country’s battle against the pandemic.

When the pandemic struck in 2020, Razon was the first to say he was writing off that year because of the situation’s devastating impact on his businesses.

But that didn’t stop him from leading the procurement of Moderna vaccines for the country, which were rolled out to hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in a very efficient manner, myself and my family included.

The Razon Group built a P250-million mega vaccination facility which was capable of handling 15,000 individuals every day. As of end-December 2021, it had spent P1.5 billion in social investments, including the administration of over 300,000 doses of vaccines.

We’ve seen how such efforts helped us, as a country, battle the pandemic.

Moving forward, we hope to see more serious acts of philanthropy from businesses.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen on FB.

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