The lords of NAIA

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

From The Philippine STAR’s new office in Parañaque, a stone’s throw away from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), one could see hulking airplanes flying out of Manila or about to land. The whooshing sound of their engines fills the air, drowning out the noise in the bustling southern district of the metropolis.

It seems that there’s an aircraft flying in and out of the gateway every few minutes or so.

Clearly, it’s a busy airport and one that’s bound to get even more chaotic as the global economy recovers.

Whether or not NAIA will be able to cope with the growing demand for travel in the years to come would depend greatly on its new operator – any of the four bidders vying for the operations and maintenance contract of the country’s main gateway.

“Who’s it gonna be?” is the question on everyone’s mind these days.

Will it be the consortium led by tycoon Ramon Ang, president & CEO of San Miguel Corp. and former president of Philippine Airlines, or will it be the group of the country’s richest tycoons often seen with President Marcos in meetings in Malacañang or abroad or in glitzy social gatherings? Or will it be the potentially powerful partnership between Filipino-Chinese businessmen Jeffrey Cheng and retail king Lucio Co?

There’s also the group of global airport expert GMR and the Viratas, joined by the Yuchengco Group led by tycoon Helen Yuchengco-Dee, whose late father Alfonso Yuchengco was among the “dragons” that formed Asia’s Emerging Dragon in 1993 supposedly to upgrade NAIA at the time.

In a few days – as early as tomorrow, Feb. 7 we’re told – authorities may already announce the results of the evaluation of the technical bids.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr), together with the Asian Development Bank (ADB), is evaluating the bids submitted last December. After this, the financial bids will be opened and the government may announce a winner as early as Feb. 14.

What a good Valentine’s Day gift this could be – that is if Filipinos really get a good deal, which means a viable, workable and brilliant plan from a competent and qualified consortium.

Portent of things to come

This is so far the biggest infrastructure project of the Marcos administration and there’s a lot at stake. I sincerely hope that this latest attempt to revitalize the airport does not suffer the same fate as that of past failed bids.

What would make it work this time?

This time around, there’s the ADB as advisor, which provides a seal of good housekeeping to the whole process. That, plus we have a Transportation Secretary, the indefatigable Jaime “JJB” Bautista, who really wants to see changes in our gateway.

But will it really be as smooth as the government hopes it would be?

Sources said at least one group has already submitted a manifestation to the Bids and Awards Committee last week seeking to disqualify another bidder.

It’s looking to be a portent of things to come. This might mean TROs and cases later on when the results are out. I hope I’m wrong.

It’s up to the authorities to decide on the manifestation – fair and square, I hope – and I hope all parties respect whatever decision may emerge.

These are the four bidders and their official members:

One is the San Miguel Corp.-led consortium, which is composed of San Miguel Holdings Corp., RMM Asian Logistics, RLW Aviation Development and Incheon International Airport Corp.

Another bidder is the Manila International Airport Consortium which combines the expertise of the country’s biggest conglomerates: Aboitiz, Ayala, Alliance Global, Lucio Tan Group, Filinvest and JG Summit.

And then there’s the consortium identified with Jeffrey Cheng and Lucio Co. This is the Asian Airport Consortium which includes Asian Infrastructure, Co’s Cosco Capital Inc. and Philippine Skylanders.

Last but not least is the GMR Airports Consortium which comprises India’s GMR Group; the Virata Group’s Cavitex Holdings Inc. and Yuchengco-led House of Investments. GMR has recently partnered with Groupe ADP, which owns and manages France’s international airports.

What happens next?

At first glance, it seems that every bidder is qualified but that’s really up to the authorities to decide.

What happens next is anybody’s guess. I hope it will be a successful and credible process.

Unfortunately, it’s not going to stop at that. The winning bidder will have to face the syndicates supposedly lording it over at the country’s main gateway.

These so-called lords of NAIA could end up making life difficult for the winner.

Insiders talk about groups who managed to land contracts with the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) for a song.

They then subcontract the contracts to other concessionaires and rake in millions all for themselves, depriving state coffers of bigger earnings.

There are other schemes, I’m told.

This should serve as a warning for both the government and the NAIA bidders.

Isn’t it puzzling that nearly every attempt to revitalize and modernize NAIA fails or ends up being saddled with court cases? Sources said these syndicates are to blame.

We have not forgotten how MIAA general manager Cesar Chiong ended up being the subject of vicious attacks after introducing improvements at NAIA.

It’s scary to think that attempts to modernize the airport may never really take off for as long as the lords of NAIA continue to guard their runway of rakets.

*      *      *

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

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with