Thursday, December 1, 2011
CEBU CITY – The proposal to transfer the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) to the Municipality of Cordova became more feasible with the entry of an investor who wants to help implement the project.
Representative Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district) showed Wednesday to reporters the proposal letter of SM Prime Holdings Inc., which is willing to buy the 300-hectare property where the airport stands.
SM’s payment may then be used to fund the construction of a “larger and more modern” international airport in Cordova.
“We are pleased to inform your good office of SM Prime Holdings Inc.’s intent to participate in MCIA’s fund-raising efforts in relation to the project (building a new international airport). We heard that among the options being considered by the MCIAA (Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority) is the possible privatization/sale of MCIA’s current location. In this regard, we are willing to discuss the terms of our possible participation in the disposition of the subject property,” said Hans Sy, the president of SM.
“We believe that SM’s proposal will help the MCIAA raise the necessary funding for the said project,” he added.
Sy’s letter dated November 3 was addressed to MCIA General Manager Nigel Paul Villarete, and was coursed through Osmeña.
If plans push through, Sy said SM will develop a world-class and modern commercial and mixed-use complex on the MCIA property.
“This stands to create significant economic activity, not to mention thousands of employment opportunities within the region,” he said.
In a phone interview Wednesday, Villarete said he already presented SM’s proposal to the MCIAA Board during their meeting last Monday, and was referred to the committee on strategic planning and development for study.
Villarete said SM’s proposal will still have to be “carefully studied” by the board.
“It’s something very complicated and very intricate and a very large scale undertaking so we need to look at it very carefully,” he said.
When asked for the value of the 300-hectare airport and if it will be enough to cover the cost of building a new international airport, Villarete declined giving any figures for now.
In a news conference he called at his house in Barangay Guadalupe Wednesday, Osmeña endorsed the proposal of SM. He said selling the property to SM and constructing a new one is better than rehabilitating the existing airport.
If the MCIA will be rehabilitated, Osmeña said he was told that it will cost the airport management some P5 billion, and funds will have to be borrowed from the World Bank.
To pay off the loan, Osmeña said the airport might even increase the present terminal fee from P200 to P400, at the expense of the airline passengers.
“The clearest advantage of this (SM’s proposal) is that you don’t have to spend money. There’s a little window of opportunity now unless people want to pay a P400 terminal fee,” he said.
Osmeña believes SM’s proposal will “enhance the attractiveness of Cebu and will make Cebu globally competitive.”
He said it will make the Cordova Reclamation Area and the Lapu-Lapu City Reclamation Area more attractive to investors.
The congressman also proposed that once the MCIA property is sold, the runway could be converted into a highway, which can be extended from the Lapu-Lapu City Reclamation Area to the Cordova Reclamation Area.
He said this will ease traffic in Lapu-Lapu City’s main thoroughfares and Cordova’s roads, among others. He said the runway may also be closed once a year and used as a Formula 1 racing circuit.
Lapu-Lapu City officials were already informed about SM’s proposal, he said, and City Hall was sent a copy of the letter.
“You know, this is not an easy project. But let it be debated on, let it be discussed,” he said.
Osmeña, who has long pushed to annex Cordova and Cebu City, has been vocal about his support for the transfer of MCIA to Cordova.
Meanwhile, Villarete welcomed the House committees’ approval of the recommendation of Representative Arturo Radaza (Cebu, 6th district) to allow Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza to sit in the MCIAA Board.
“I believe that as far as the airport is concerned, it will be to our best interest and to the best interest of Lapu-Lapu City. Allowing the local chief executive to sit in the board will help in a lot of matters, more specifically on coordination and in mutual assistance,” he said.
The House committees on transportation and government enterprise also reportedly approved another amendment proposed by Congressman Radaza that the three private sector representatives in the MCIAA Board be no longer recommended by the governor of Cebu.
He proposed that this be done instead by a governance committee, as mandated by a law governing government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC).
Lawyer Michael Dignos, acting Lapu-Lapu City legal officer and the city’s chief liaison to Congress, said the two house committees approved Radaza’s proposal last November 23.
Lawyer Rory Jon Sepulveda, the Capitol’s consultant on information and revenue generation, said they welcomed the inclusion of the Lapu-Lapu City mayor in the MCIAA Board.
He added that the committees’ recommendation to remove the governor’s recommending powers for the selection of private sector representatives is already “water under the bridge.”
While the old MCIAA charter specified that the governor has such recommending powers, this proviso became moot and academic when Republic Act 10149, governing GOCCs, was passed into law.
Dignos said the two House committees also approved proposed amendments on allowing some parts of the airport, except for its runway and taxiway, to be taxed. (PDF/JKV of Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 01, 2011.