Mactan bidding rules imperil proposal to build new Manila airport, PAL says

The bidding rules for the Mactan Cebu International Airport restrict airline ownership in an airport operator to 33 percent. Photo by Arnold Tenorio means BUSINESS

MANILA - The government policy of restricting a carrier's ownership of an airport has imperiled Philippine Airline's (PAL) plan to build a new international gateway in Metro Manila, the flag carrier's chief executive said on Wednesday.

Ramon S. Ang told reporters that PAL's plan would be "compromised" because of the bidding rules that the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) issued for the P17.5 billion Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) New Terminal Project.

"Ni-limit kang mag-bid sa Mactan, lalo na kung mag-propose ka ng airport na 100 percent," Ang said.

According to the new Instructions to Prospective Bidders of the MCIA project, airlines and entities having any relationship with a carrier may own up to a maximum of 33 percent of the shares in the special purpose company (SPC) that will win the concession. The rules also bar an airline from direct involvement in airport operations.

Ang said PAL is awaiting the government's policy before presenting its proposal to build new airport. "The master plan by foreign companies is already completed," he said, adding that a foreign construction firm has agreed to build the new airport for PAL. Costing $6 billion, the new airport will have four runways and will span 2,000 hectares.

He said PAL’s proposed airport would take a passenger to EDSA-Ayala in only 15 minutes through a skyway. The group of San Miguel Corp, which is part owner of PAL, had proposed to the government a new line of the light rail transit -- the so-called Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT7) -- that would run from North Avenue in Quezon City to San Jose del Monte, Bulacan.

The CIMB Group, which had bought San Miguel's interest in Bank of Commerce, earlier said the planned international airport would likely be located in Bulacan.

CIMB said the plan envisions the Bulacan airport to handle 150 flights an hour, more than four times as many as Manila.

PAL's new airport project comes on the heels of its $7 billion deal to acquire 54 planes from Airbus, with delivery to start next year. The carrier will buy a total of 100 planes, 26 of which are long-range and wide-bodied.