House approves 50-year franchise to SMC for New Manila Int’l Airport in Bulacan

One of the design studies of the exterior of the proposed New Manila International Airport (NMIA) which San Miguel Corporation proposes to build in Bulakan, Bulacan just north of Metro Manila. (Photo courtesy San Miguel Corporation)

(Eagle News) – Voting 218–6, the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved on third and final reading House Bill 7507 granting a 50-year franchise to San Miguel Aerocity Inc., to construct, operate and maintain the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan.

The ultra modern and world-class domestic and international airport in Bulacan with a total cost of P735.63 billion under a build-operate-transfer arrangement sill span some 2,500 hectares.

It is envisioned as an alternative gateway of the country to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and support growth and development in Central Luzon. It will have four runways which can be upgraded to have six to eight taxiways, and 3 passenger terminals eyed to serve some 100 million passengers annually. It will be built in the coastal areas of Bulakan, Bulacan, around 30 kilometers north of Metro Manila.

The airport is also envisioned as to be at par among the world’s best airports, and could be the best in the ASEAN region once built.

HB 7507 also grants San Miguel Aerocity the right to construct, acquire, lease, operate or manage properties to implement the project. This includes toll roads, railroads, mass transit systems, hotels, warehouses, and other facilities.

-Biggest single item investment in PHL history-

“This is probably the biggest single-item investment in the country’s history. San Miguel is a Filipino company that has kept nearly all of its money here, to develop this country. They are doubling down on their commitment to Philippine development with this investment,” said Albay Representative Joey Salceda who chairs the tax panel.

“I want the airport to happen on fair and equitable terms. That is why I worked with the leadership and my colleagues to come up with fairer tax provisions for the franchise. I am proud to have pushed for fairer tax benefits and an attractive profit-sharing scheme for the country. But, bottomline, I want the airport to happen,” he added in a statement.

Only six lamakers from the Makabayan opposed tbe bill. They are Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Callamat of Bayan Muna partylist; Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party; France Castro, of ACT Teachers party list; and Sarah Elago of Kabataan party list.

-Conditions for franchise-

If passed into law, the bill provides as a condition for the franchise the immediate start of its construction.
The Lower House said that the franchise would be revoked if San Miguel Aerocity will fail to meet the following conditions:
• Start of construction within a year from the effectivity of the law
• Start of operations within a year from the approval of the operating permit from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines
• Start of operations within 12 years from the effectivity of the law
• Continuous operation for two years

-Livelihood and economic opportunities –

Lawmakers who opposed the measure claimed that the airport construction will affect 700 families, mostly fisherfolk, who reside in Brgy. Taliptip in Bulakan, Bulacan.  Two lawmakers also abstained from the voting.

But SMC assured that it will prioritize the hiring of the local residents from the affected barangay.

In fact, 60 former residents of the barangay are already set to start training under the Technical Education Skills Development Authority, which designs courses on skills specific to the needs of the airport’s construction.

“We designed these skills training program with TESDA specifically to equip Bulakeños with the necessary skills needed to either work at the airport project, put up a small businesses to support airport workers, or even start on their own elsewhere if they choose to do so,” said SMC chair and CEO Ramon Ang.

“Over the next couple of years, construction of this massive airport will generate hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs. We will prioritize local residents, but there will be so many jobs and livelihood opportunities that ultimately, workers will come from all over Bulacan, Central Luzon, even Metro Manila and Southern Luzon,” he said.

In an earlier statement, Ang also assured those affected by the airport’s construction of how this will create better livelihood and economic opportunitied for them.

“We can assure this early that this project is designed to decongest Metro Manila. It will provide more and better livelihood opportunities, not to take them away; ensure environmental balance and enhance resilience against calamities, because it’s the right thing to do. In other words, we envision a brighter future for everyone, but we know what’s worth achieving isn’t necessarily easy. We will face rough waters along the way, that’s why we need everybody’s help and support to make this dream a reality.” SMC president Ang said.

It was in September 2019 that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and San Miguel Aerocity signed the concession agreement for the project, a month after the notice of award to SMC, which submitted an unsolicited proposal for the project, went uncontested

-Envisioned to be best airport in region with no cost to gov’t-

SMC envisions the proposed airport in Bulacan to be the best in the region – at no cost to the government.

It will be part of a larger infrastructure ecosystem that will connect seamlessly with existing expressways and mass rail transits that will connect it to both southern and northern Luzon.

SMC said this project would be a long-term solution to the country’s airport congestion problem with the country’s main airport operating above capacity – with no space to build additional runways.

The airport “will fuel trillions of dollars in economic activity annually for the country, bring in about 35 million tourists per year, create an estimated 30 million tourism related jobs, generate more than a million direct jobs and make lives better for the people of host province Bulacan and the rest of the nearby provinces,” it said.

(Eagle News Service)