InfraWatch: SMC’s proposed NAIA rehab, suspect; warns of anti-competition

InfraWatch: SMC’s proposed NAIA rehab, suspect; warns of anti-competition

Leaving a Legacy by C. de los Angeles

“THIS DEVELOPMENT gives rise to a clear suspicion of collusion for the irregular revocation of the second private proponent’s original proponent status (OPS); that the OPS was made to accommodate another private proponent to rehabilitate NAIA,” Terry Ridon, InfraWatch PH convenor stressed after the Megawide Construction Corp and India-based GMR Infrastructure Ltd (Megawide-GMR) tandem’s OPS was suddenly revoked.

On Thursday’s Senate hearing on the Megawide’s proposed NAIA rehabilitation project and the sudden revocation of its original proponent status (OPS), it was learned there are two other proponents vying for it.

The San Miguel Corporation and the Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions also want to get the contract to rehabilitate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the Manila International Airport Authority admitted.

“There are two more: Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions, Inc. and San Miguel Corporation,” MIAA General Manager Eddie V. Monreal said at a Senate hearing on Thursday afternoon, after Senator Maria Lourdes Nancy S. Binay asked who the third and fourth proponents are, as earlier the OPS of Megawide-GMR was revoked.

Also at the hearing, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said the Megawide-GMR tandem could still appeal for reconsideration, while MIAA implements its own reconstruction and rehabilitation program.

Kung gusto nila mag-apila sa desisyon, sa aking pananaw, pwede pa silang mag-apila, habang ginagawa ng MIAA ang kanilang reconstruction and rehabilitation program,” Mr. Tugade said.

On Thursday morning, SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang told BusinessWorld that the company is only interested in operating and maintaining (O&M) the airport. SMC is also building an airport in Bulacan.

Destroying investor confidence, Megawide’s OPS on appeal; why it is important to SMC’s Ramon Ang

It can be recalled that Megawide Construction Corp. and its Indian consortium partner GMR Infrastructure Ltd, the team behind the highly awarded and successful Mactan Cebu International Airport, was awarded the original proponent status (OPS) early this year. However, without any explanation and despite Megawide’s completion of all of the government’s demands, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) last 15 December 2020 suddenly revoked said OPS. Megawide agreed to build a railway to connect all three terminals, secure the 14,000 jobs, minimize passenger inconvenience, complete the majority of work before Pres. Duterte steps down in 2022, as well as secure the equity portion for the $2.3 billion, which, although not required under the law, they complied anyway. Read more . . .

Sought for comment, Terry L. Ridon, convenor of infrastructure-oriented think tank InfraWatch PH, said in a phone message: “This development gives rise to a clear suspicion of collusion for the irregular revocation of the second private proponent’s original proponent status: that the OPS revocation was made to accommodate another private proponent to rehabilitate NAIA.”

“Nonetheless, the SMC proposal should be scrutinized not only on financial and technical competency but also on concerns of anti-competition, given that it has already been awarded the right to build its airport in Bulacan,” he added.

Mr. Ridon also said that controlling two airports within the Greater Capital Region “may give rise to higher terminal and airport fees for passengers, airlines and service providers.”

“Furthermore, strict scrutiny should be undertaken on SMC’s debt-equity ratio, given that it will already undertake high financial leverage to fund the development of its Bulacan airport costing at least P735 billion,” Mr. Ridon said.

Featured image: Terry Ridon, InfraWatch PH convenor

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