GMR-Megawide consortium alarmed over Clark airport proposal

MANILA, Philippines – The consortium of Megawide Construction Corporation and Bangalore-based airport operator GMR Infrastructure Limited is alarmed over the transportation department's decision to abandon its July 2016 unsolicited proposal to develop, operate, and maintain the Clark International Airport.

This was after it found out, through news reports, that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is reviewing a "quite" similar proposal of Filinvest and JG Summit Holdings Incorporated for the development of the airport.

GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Consortium (GMCAC), which bagged the country's first airport public-private partnership (PPP) project, said it wants "transparency and fair play for all unsolicited proposals." 

GMCAC president Manuel Louie Ferrer said they asked the DOTr last week to clarify why their unsolicited proposal was abandoned, when it was a "complete, original" proposal submitted months ahead that of the Filinvest-JG Summit consortium's P187-billion proposal.

Ferrer revealed that in August last year, GMCAC met with transportation officials to present its Clark airport proposal. He said that in that meeting, the DOTr informed the consortium that Filinvest submitted a brief proposal after GMCAC.

DOTr: 'Not original'

Ferrer then said that last September, his consortium was surprised to receive a letter from the department, saying that GMCAC's unsolicited proposal is "not an original concept and hence not compliant with the build-operate-transfer (BOT) law."

Since only a construction deal for a budget terminal was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board during the previous administration, GMCAC stood firm that its "comprehensive 50-year master plan" is original and therefore should be granted the original proponent status.

"We are confident that our proposal complied with the BOT law requirements. We believe we should be granted original proponent status," Ferrer replied when asked for comment. (READ: 5 regional airports attract more honchos)

Last March 2, Transportation Undersecretary for Aviation Roberto Lim said the DOTr is reviewing the Filinvest-JG Summit proposal to improve the Clark airport's facillities, boost its capacity in 5 phases to up to 36 million passengers per annum (mppa), as well as operate and maintain the airport.

He said the Filinvest-JG Summit group submitted its proposal in January 2017.

Lim also confirmed that GMCAC, the current operator of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), submitted a similar proposal in July 2016 but it was "discontinued" because it was at a time when the government was not yet open to accepting unsolicited proposals for the Clark airport.

BOT law overlooked?

Under the implementing rules and regulations of the BOT law, the first complete proposal should be evaluated and decided upon. The second complete proposal will only be entertained if the first one is rejected.

The law states that the second complete proposal can be considered if there is a failure in the negotiation of the first proposal.

"It looks like the department may have overlooked this provision in the law," Ferrer said.

On the sidelines of a conference in Mandaluyong City on Monday, March 13, Lim was sought for comment on the issue but declined, citing the passage of Executive Order No. 14, reverting Clark International Airport Corporation to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).

Instead, the DOTr issued a statement, saying it is presently reviewing all proposals on all airports and will be submitting them to the NEDA-Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) at the soonest possible time.

Asked if GMCAC's proposal on Clark airport is included, Lim replied: "Yes."

But when PPP Center Executive Director Ferdinand Pecson was asked, he replied that his group has only reviewed Filinvest-JG Summit's proposal. 

"I haven't encountered Megawide's proposal. If they have, then hindi pa nakarating sa 'kin (then it has not reached my desk yet)," Pecson said on the sidelines of the conference.

"PPP Center is only tasked to check the completeness and eligibility of unsolicited proposals. It is the implementing agency who will grant the original proponent status," he added.

Infrastructure deals

If Megawide's proposal is accepted, this will be the 3rd time it could battle with Filinvest for an infrastructure project. The Filinvest group lost to a consortium led by Megawide in the bidding for the Integrated Transport System (ITS)-Southwest project.

The Filinvest-Changi consortium also lost to the GMR-Megawide consortium in the auction for the P17.5-billion MCIA contract.

Megawide has won 5 of 11 awarded PPP deals since the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III.

Its other projects are the first phase of the PPP for School Infrastructure Project (PSIP), PSIP's second phase, and the terminated Philippine Orthopedic Center modernization project.

Ferrer had said the firm is interested in more PPP projects.

These include the Regional Prison Facilities and the P108.19 billion ($2.40 billion) worth of deals to develop, operate, and maintain 5 regional airports. –