By Beting Laygo Dolor, Contributing Editor

After talks with a super consortium controlled by the country’s taipans broke down last week, the Philippine government is looking at two possible contractors to handle the upgrade of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA, the country’s main international airport).

The government said on July 8 that it is not worried by the original consortium’s decision to pull out of the long gestating project as there are two other proponents that have the capability to handle the mega project.

Before pulling out of the PHP102 billion (about US$200 million) project, the NAIA Consortium comprised of the Aboitiz Group, Metro Pacific Investments Corp., AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp., Alliance Global Group, Inc., Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corp., Filinvest Development Corp. and JG Summit Holdings, Inc.

Even before the contract fell apart, Metro Pacific had already backed out from the consortium. The Manuel Pangilinan-led company cited unresolved issues with the government as its reason for withdrawing from the consortium.

As for the Cebu-based Aboitiz Group, Cosette Canilao, chief operating officer of Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc. said her group was no longer interested in pursuing the project but gave no specific reason for their pull-out.

The remaining members of the consortium told the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) that they were no longer confident in financing the NAIA upgrade and rehabilitation.

The government, however, said last week that it was not worried about the collapse of the pact with the super conglomerate, as two other possible proponents were willing to step in and take over the mega project.

Without naming the two proponents, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez said that the Department of Transportation was talking with both groups to take over the NAIA project.

According to Dominguez, “We’re not worried about it. We believe these other two (prospects can) step up to the plate.”

He added that the two were “willing to get into agreement with the government which are very similar to the terms of agreement with Clark airport.”

It is believed that one of the two prospects is Megawide Construction Corp. and its partner India-based GMR Infrastructure Ltd.

The partnership had earlier submitted a proposal to rehabilitate and upgrade the international airport for US$3 billion, with the contract stretched out over an 18-year period.

Megawide-GMR had earlier built the new Mactan terminal facility in Cebu.

The upgrade of the NAIA was proposed as far back as the Ramos era. Back then, the country’s six taipans — Lucio Tan, Henry Sy, John Gokongwei, Andrew Tan, George Ty and Andrew Gotianun — formed Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corp. but internal disagreements caused the project to go nowhere.

Back then, the need to upgrade the former Manila International Airport (MIA) had become a must due to worsening air traffic congestion as well as overcapacity of passengers.

The plan was to re-configure and renovate facilities while enhancing operations and maintenance, thereby allowing for the accommodation of increased traffic.

The Ramos administration was able to complete the “Millennium terminal,” which is currently the principal terminal used for both domestic and international flights.

The original MIA, which was renamed NAIA, is used mainly for cargo, as well as for domestic flights.

The NAIA is located within the cities of Pasay and Paranaque.

The NAIA project now in limbo, was originally planned to be implemented in three phases, from 2021 to 2024.

Meantime, to alleviate the load at NAIA, the San Miguel Corp. is constructing another international airport in Bulacan, just outside Metro Manila.