September 28, 2023
MANILA - Several stakeholders in the aviation industry are pushing for the privatization of airport operations in the Philippines as air travel picks up following the pandemic, and improvements in terminals are urgently sought.
At the 2023 Aviation Summit organized by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and the Asian Business Aviation Association, speakers all agreed that air travel is recovering quickly and there is a need to upgrade the facilities and the processes in Philippine airports, especially the country’s main gateway, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
The government has already opened the bidding for the solicited proposal to privatize NAIA with at least six firms so far looking to bid for the contract.
Senator Grace Poe, who also spoke at the summit, meanwhile lamented that the government has been slow to privatize the airport and even changed minds midway.
The administration of former President Rodrigo Duterte sat on the proposal of a consortium to modernize NAIA, and the current administration is also not moving as quickly as it should, she said.
“One year already has passed on the term of this current administration, and again DOTR has come back to us and said we have now changed it. We are not accepting unsolicited bids, we will change now it to solicited bids,” Poe said.
Allan Nepomuceno, Chairman of the Airline Operators Council in Manila, said one model for the privatization of airports is the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), whose operations were handed to a private consortium in 2014 and has since expanded significantly.
He mentioned that another privately operated airport is the Clark International Airport and there are plans to privatize the operations of dozens of other airports.
“We’re looking at 24 more projects for privatizing in the country. Luckily I had the experience of transitioning the first PPP project in Cebu, Mactan… There has been a regional impact on our market reach,” said Nepomuceno.
Athanasios Titonis, CEO of MCIA, agreed that the Cebu model is a good "airport of the future model" as they fund the capital expenditures, not the government, and they also compete with other airports, hence improving their services.
Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco also agreed by saying that the Cebu airport project should be emulated.
“The success of the PPP model in the Cebu airport has the potential and should serve as the model for how airport operations are done across the country,” Frasco said.
Poe meanwhile has also filed a bill for the creation of the Philippine Airports Authority to modernize and upgrade all airports in the country. She asserted that the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines cannot be both a regulator and an operator of airports.