COVER STORY

TIMELINE: The NAIA rehabilitation project

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — From its humble beginnings as a United States Air Force base, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport eventually evolved into the country's main international gateway.

However, with tens of millions of travelers flying in and out on a yearly basis, congestion had plagued NAIA prior to the coronavirus pandemic as no alternatives were in place to help ease the airport's air traffic.

The government has since greenlit multi-billion peso upgrades of select airports across the country, and even the construction of a new one in Bulacan. Yet the rehabilitation of NAIA itself has faced numerous setbacks over the years, with negotiations between the government and various conglomerates invariably reaching a dead end.

Here's a timeline of events:

March 3, 1972: President Ferdinand Marcos signs Executive Order No. 381, which authorizes the development of the Manila International Airport with the establishment of a Committee on MIA Rehabilitation and Improvement.

International passenger traffic grows immensely during the 1970s, which leads to the construction of Terminal 1 in 1981, according to the Manila International Airport Authority.

August 21, 1983: Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. is assassinated on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport.

November 27, 1987: Republic Act No. 6639, which renames the Manila International Airport to Ninoy Aquino International Airport, is enacted without executive approval under President Corazon Aquino's administration.

Air traffic in the NAIA continues to skyrocket throughout the years, with NAIA Terminal I hitting its intended capacity of 4.5 million passengers in 1991, said the MIAA. Despite various improvements increasing its design capacity by 1.5 million, the terminal yet again experiences an overflow of passengers in 1997 as they breach 7.7 million.

With this, the Philippine government pursues the construction of Terminals III and III within NAIA.

June 9, 2008: President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signs Executive Order No. 732, which establishes a task force to ensure the immediate opening and operation of Terminal 3. The terminal becomes fully operational over a month after.

2011-2013: Decades of air traffic congestion and problems with operations eventually catch up to NAIA, with the gateway being crowned the worst airport in the world by travel website "The Guide to Sleeping in Airports." NAIA also places among the worst airports in Asia in 2015 and 2016, but eventually gets out of the list in 2017.

February 12, 2018: The NAIA Consortium formally submits its unsolicited proposal to rehabilitate NAIA to the Department of Transportation. The group is composed of Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc.; AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp.; Alliance Global Group, Inc.; Asia's Emerging Dragon Corp.; Filinvest Development Corp.; JG Summit Holdings, Inc. and Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, the biggest conglomerates in the country.

In an interview with CNN Philippines' Rico Hizon in July 2020, San Miguel President and COO Ramon Ang also reveals they were the first to submit an offer to upgrade the airport, but was told the project should be kept "for somebody else to compete with us at the time."

​March 1, 2018: The duo of Megawide Construction Corporation and India-based GMR Infrastructure (Megawide-GMR) also formally submits its proposal to improve the airway. The consortium was behind the upgrade of the "model" Clark International Airport and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

May 1, 2019: Following threats to cancel the project, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade accepts the consortium's revised proposal after both the government and the group of conglomerates finally get on the same page on the deal.

July 5, 2019: The Transportation Department returns the NAIA Consortium's latest pitch for improving the airport, noting it still falls short of the government's vision for the gateway. The business groups were asked to revise the agreement similar to the Clark O&M model.

November 29, 2019: The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board approves the NAIA Consortium's proposal to rehabilitate NAIA after undergoing several revisions. The plan was originally set at ₱350 billion for a 35-year concession period, but was eventually scaled down to ₱102 billion for a 15-year deal.

March 9, 2020: Metro Pacific confirms its intent to withdraw from its former consortium's plan to upgrade the gateway, citing issues with real property taxes.

July 7, 2020: The NAIA Consortium says authorities rejected its revised proposal to rehabilitate NAIA after subjecting its draft contract to multiple changes.

July 17, 2020: The Megawide consortium bags the official proponent status for the airport's upgrade.

November 23, 2020: Megawide reiterates it can fund the rehabilitation of NAIA after NEDA and the Finance Department returned its proposal to take on the project, questioning the company's financial capacity.

December 15, 2020: Megawide announces the revocation of its original proponent status for the airport's rehabilitation, effectively delaying plans to improve NAIA.

December 17, 2020: In a Senate committee hearing, MIAA general manager Ed Monreal confirms San Miguel Corporation has submitted a proposal to operate and maintain NAIA. He also reveals Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions Inc. as the second proponent seeking to run the international gateway.

During the same hearing, Tugade says Megawide still has a window of opportunity to persuade the MIAA board it can once again be the rehabilitation project's contractor.

December 21, 2020: Megawide submits a formal appeal to the DOTr and MIAA seeking the reinstatement of its original proponent status for the airport's long-delayed repair and upgrade.

January 26, 2021: Megawide confirms to the local bourse its motion for reconsideration seeking to overturn the revocation of its preferential status for the rehabilitation of NAIA has been denied by the MIAA. The consortium adds it was formally informed by airport authorities of the denial the day before.