Secretary of Transportation Jaime Bautista announced on Wednesday, December 28, 2022, that the government will now push through with the privatization of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
He further stated, “We have worked with the Asian Development Bank for the preparation of the terms of reference for the privatization of the Manila International Airport.” He is also banking on the terms of reference or TOR to be ready by the first quarter of 2023 — “so we can entertain proposals from interested parties.”, he added later on.
He also acknowledges that the rehabilitation of NAIA has long been overdue. He reveals that among the improvements the public will look forward to would be public utility vehicles (PUVs) will be available to serve passengers, particularly in Terminal 3 which caters to domestic flights.
Other areas that need to be redeveloped and looked into are the parking spaces and an area in Terminal 3 that can become an ideal multilevel parking facility. He also pointed out that the semi-manual baggage handling system also needs to be fully automated.
He also confirmed that it is a priority to ease congestion in some terminals. This will mean that airlines might have to be reassigned, and additional low-cost terminals might have to be built.
Backgrounder on NAIA Privatization
The proposal to finally improve the NAIA and bring it into the fold of privatization has been around since 2018. There was a group of conglomerates known as the NAIA Consortium that submitted a proposal to the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) to rehabilitate NAIA. Talks, discussions and negotiations were ongoing for two years before finally collapsing in July 2020 when the group pulled out largely due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There were discussions as well with the Metro Pacific Investments Corp. of tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan but they also pulled out from the public-private partnership (PPP) deal for the NAIA, pointing out viability concerns as reasons to back off.
Bautista mentions that there are several parties interested to take the challenge, “I told them to let’s finish the terms of reference first. Because the terms of reference will define what we want for the airport. I always tell them that when we modernize our airports it should conform with global standards.”
Bautista is vocal in his aspiration for the future NAIA mentioning that he wanted the tourists to enjoy the same services at NAIA that they experience in other major airports in Asia like Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand.
He also assures to protect investor interests saying that the government, “will see to it that we will attend to the requirements of the private sector so that their investment will be worth it. Meaning they should be able to earn a reasonable [amount] of their investment. We’ll make it investor-friendly. Our environment should be investor-friendly not only what is good for the government, but what is good for the passengers and what is good for the private sector.”
The old PPP law has also been revised. He brings up that the implementing rules and regulations of the PPP law have been amended to introduce provisions that will protect the interests of the private sector.
He added, “We also introduced the provision that if there is conflict or misunderstanding between the private sector and the government, there is this facility for mediation.” The terms and conditions of privatization have been modelled after what other countries practice.
Other Possibilities to be Explored
Bautista also volunteered the information that he is open to the possibility of shutting down NAIA and converting it into another facility. This will also ease passenger volume once new airports outside Metro Manila start operation.
Currently, San Miguel Corp. is building the PHP740-billion New Manila International Airport in Bulacan for completion in 2026.
Meanwhile, the government of Cavite has also awarded an USD11-billion contract to a consortium to upgrade Sangley Airport into an international gateway.
Nonetheless, Bautista still views NAIA as a “very good location” and can still attract high passenger volumes. He likened the scenario to Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan, which continues to operate despite the construction of Narita International Airport.
Bautista further reiterated that having a new operator does not mean that NAIA personnel will lose their jobs. He points out that in the case of the MIAA, they will retain some employees, and others could be hired by the incoming operator.
Finally, a fresh take on NAIA will definitely increase tourism as well as traffic in our beloved integrated resorts which are also planned to be near the airport. This will be a big win-win for everyone. Hopefully, the company that will undertake this gigantic task will deliver more than expected. Comment down below if you see this the same or differently. Would you like main airports to also dot the Philippine archipelago? The more, the merrier. Hope to hear from you soon guys! Cheers!