DOTr wants Bulacan airport started by Q4

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San Miguel Holdings Corporation is set to secure the contract to build a new international airport in Bulacan with no other proposals before the Department of Transportation. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 31) — The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said it is poised to award the ₱735.6-billion contract for the Bulacan international airport to San Miguel Holdings Corporation with no other contenders, and it wants construction to begin this year.

Bidding for the construction of the proposed Bulacan international airport ended Wednesday with no counter-proposals to SMHC's offer to build the alternative gateway, the DOTr said during the scheduled opening of bids after a 60-day window given to potential challengers.

In 2016, the diversified conglomerate put forward its proposal to build an international gateway in Bulakan town, north of Metro Manila, to decongest the overcrowded Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). To be called the New Manila International Airport, it would be constructed on a 2,500-hectare seaside area in Bulacan province. It would have four parallel runways and a terminal that could serve 100 million passengers yearly.

The project also involves building an 8.4-kilometer tollway that will connect the new gateway to the North Luzon Expressway in Marilao, Bulacan.

READ: NEDA Board approves negotiation results on proposed Bulacan international airport

The technical working group assigned to the project asked to have until tomorrow morning to finalize the resolution and recommendations for awarding the contract to SMHC.

"They (SMHC) have 20 days to comply with our conditions," Transportation Assistant Secretary Giovanni Lopez said in a statement, adding that the notice of award can be issued within five days following the TWG recommendations. SMHC must post a performance bond and proof of commitment before the contract is officially awarded.

The notice to proceed with the project will then be issued by the first week of September. By then, the conglomerate will take charge of financing, design, and construction of the airport, as well as operation and maintenance once the structures are established.

"The Secretary wants to start the groundbreaking of the construction by the last quarter of this year," he said, referring to Transportation chief Arthur Tugade. Lopez said the airport should be operational within four to six years from breaking ground.

In a statement, San Miguel Corp. president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang thanked President Rodrigo Duterte for "bringing this historic project closer to reality," adding that it was their "single biggest investment" for the country. The project will be built without state subsidies or guarantees.

"We still have a long way to go, but with the continued support of government and everyone, we hope to get started working right away," Ang said.

Under the law, the company's unsolicited proposal needs to undergo a Swiss challenge to see if any other companies can present a better offer. If an alternative comes forward, the original proponent can match that offer. If there is no challenger to the project, the original proponent secures the contract.

Apart from the Bulacan gateway, work is also underway to expand the use of the Sangley Airport in Cavite for local flights. President Rodrigo Duterte mandated that the alternative airport south of Manila be operational by November.

READ: Tugade orders 24/7 work for Sangley Airport in Cavite

The Bulacan airport would also sit close to the Clark International Airport in Pampanga, where authorities want to divert traffic to decongest NAIA quickly before any of the new projects are completed.