Plans to have Clark sports hub shelved?

Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - January 6, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines – While the door remains open for negotiations, Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) president/CEO Atty. Emigdio Tanjuatco III said yesterday it may be difficult to crank out an agreement with the PSC to lease a 50-hectare property for an athletes’ training center in the Freeport Zone’s aviation complex before the May elections.

“We’ve got six more months before the change of administration,” said Tanjuatco whose late father Atty. Emigdio Jr. was once the POC legal counsel. “It’s possible that we may defer finalizing the negotiations until the new Board of the CIAC is appointed by the next President. Of course, if we’re able to work out an agreement that is mutually beneficial to the PSC and CIAC, I think it won’t be a problem with the new Board. We just don’t want to burden the new Board with a problem. At this point, the CIAC isn’t making money. If we lease the property to the PSC under terms less than what we would otherwise charge, we will definitely be cited by COA. There will also be market reaction to an agreement with soft terms.”

Tanjuatco said shortly after he assumed the CIAC position in October 2014, he was asked by POC president Jose Cojuangco, Jr. if there was a property in the Freeport Zone that could be used for an athletes’ training center. An ocular inspection of a possible site was made then several meetings were held. Last month, Cojuangco and PSC chairman Richie Garcia attended the CIAC Board meeting to discuss the viability of a sports hub in the aviation complex.

“We’ve created a technical working group to review the proposal with the PSC represented by Guillermo Iroy,” said Tanjuatco. “The property identified by the PSC is within the aviation complex so it’s actually reserved for aviation-related activities. This could be leased to airlines that may want to set up maintenance facilities or the like. It’s prime property and surely, the CIAC will be able to generate income from a lease agreement with an airline. From initial representation made by the PSC, we were advised that the plan included the construction of a venue for events. Aside from training facilities, the plan was to build a sports stadium in time for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. So based on that representation, we couldn’t agree on a token lease payment of P150,000 a year and instead, suggested P150,000 a hectare or P7.5 Million a year. We were careful to come up with terms that we could justify to COA and the CIAC Board.”

Tanjuatco said the PSC plan was later revised to build only a training center with no money-making features. “We are now evaluating the change of plans,” he said. “As we understand it, the training center will be strictly for the athletes’ use and it will not be money-making. But we hope the public understands that we are not anti-sports. In fact, on a personal basis, I worked with my father when he was involved in resolving the SBP-BAP issue because of his position with the POC. There are just other considerations on our part. We’ve learned from the experience of NAIA whose expansion was limited because the surrounding property was turned into subdivisions. At Clark, we want to have the space for expansion. The proposed site for the training center is adjacent to a runway that in 10 to 15 years, will be operational. From the PSC point of view, there is also the factor of noise pollution because of the proximity to the runway.”

Tanjuatco said an option for the PSC is to locate the training center in Green City also within the Freeport Zone but outside of the airport complex. “The problem with Green City is there is still no road network,” said Tanjuatco. “From NLEX, you would need to go through Capas, Tarlac, to reach it. There’s a lot of land in Green City, it’s a wide open field right now. We had an ocular inspection last year and the PSC thought it was too far and not as attractive an option as the property in the aviation complex. But there are big plans for Green City which is being called the future BGC of the North.”

Tanjuatco said despite the stumbling blocks, the PSC project is still under negotiation. “We want to help,” he said. “But it will be difficult for us to charge a rental that is lower than the usual rate. If that happens, it will disrupt our rate structure and others will complain. We also want to evaluate how the airport may be able to share in ancillary businesses. It’s not that easy to come up with an agreement. Remember that we are a government corporation subject to audit by COA.”

The PSC earlier estimated a budget of P3 to 3.5 Billion to construct the training center at the Freeport Zone. The plan was for the PSC to jump start the construction by forking over P300 Million. Congress would then allocate P2 Billion for the project with the shortfall covered by the private sector. It would take two years to build. If the Clark option is not available, the PSC will look into alternative sites in Tagaytay and Tanauan.

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