NAIA privatization covers operations, not assets — Transport chief

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NINOY Aquino International Airport (NAIA) check-in counters. — BW FILE PHOTO

THE Transportation department on Tuesday clarified that the Marcos administration will only privatize the maintenance and operations and not the assets of Metro Manila’s international airport.

Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista made the clarification after President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. denied on Monday night that there were plans to privatize the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

In a Palace briefing on Tuesday, Mr. Bautista said the private sector will manage the operations through a concession agreement with the government.

“What the President meant was that the assets of NAIA would not be given to the private sector,” he said. “What he meant was that it’s the private sector that will manage the operations through a concession agreement, which is what we have been doing at two airports now – Cebu and Clark.”

The Mactan-Cebu International Airport and Clark International Airport are operated by private firms GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. and Luzon International Premier Airport Development Corp., respectively.

On Monday night, Mr. Marcos said he and other government officials had a meeting with the company during their trip to New York last year. He said the firm runs several big airports abroad.

When asked to confirm the President’s statement, Mr. Bautista said: “We are preparing the terms of reference, and this will be subject to bidding by proponents.”

He said the department is looking at two scenarios.

“One is for us to receive what you call an unsolicited proposal na puwedeng kasama iyong kausap namin sa (that may include the one we talked to in) New York, or we will invite them to submit a proposal based on the approved terms of reference that we are now preparing,” Mr. Bautista said. “That’s the possibility on the NAIA operations.”

Mr. Bautista said the privatization of NAIA would not automatically lead to an increase in terminal fees. “The government will have a say in the rates that the operators will impose.”

Earlier, he said his agency had been working with the Asian Development Bank on the preparation of the terms of reference for the privatization of NAIA’s operations.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bautista said Mr. Marcos had instructed his agency to fast-track the government’s deal with Sumitomo Corp. and Thales Corp. for the management of the country’s air traffic system.

This was after the country experienced an air traffic management glitch on New Year’s Day.

“The President is very much aware of what happened and he supports our recommendation to implement future requirements necessary for the upgrade or improvement of the CNS/ATM (Communications, Navigation and Surveillance Systems for Air Traffic Management) system, which includes hardware and software maintenance, hardware replacement, ultimate fallback system for software redundancy and the need for an independent CNS/ATM in a separate location.” — Kyle Aristophere Atienza

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