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China-backed group bags Sangley airport project

The plan to convert a former military base near Manila into an airport is now closer to reality after a Chinese-backed consortium bagged the contract to construct the project.

The Cavite Provincial Government awarded the initial phase of the Sangley Point International Airport (SPIA) project to the consortium of China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. (CCCC) and MacroAsia Corp. (owned by taipan Lucio C. Tan.

The consortium was sole bidder, submitting its joint venture proposal to the Cavite government last December 2019.

The SPIA has already invited controversy given its proximity to Metro Manila, located about 35 kilometers away, and CCCC’s role in building militarized islands in the West Philippine Sea amid a territorial dispute with China.

Project documents reveal that SPIA is included in the projects under the China Belt and Road Initiative. The documents also indicated that a Chinese partner was preferred, prompting other potential bidders to back out of the project, sources said.

Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla said they were transparent with all bidders while he promised that SPIA, which would mainly be funded with borrowings, would not turn into a Chinese debt trap.

The SPIA’s total estimated project cost stands at P550 billion.

Project documents showed that Phase 1, which could open by 2022, involved the first runway and a passenger capacity of 25 million passengers per year. Under subsequent phases, SPIA will have up to four runways and a passenger capacity of 130 million annually, serving demand up to 2050.

The project involves the reclamation of over 1,400 hectares of land in Manila Bay. The goal is to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which is operating beyond its existing design capacity.

The award came a day before President Duterte inaugurated for commercial use the existing Sangely Airport, officially called Major Danilo Atienza Air Base used previously by the Philippine Air Force.

The Sangley Airport will be redeveloped further should the Cavite government’s SPIA proceed.

The Department of Transportation earlier said it would be reimbursed for its expenses in readying Sangley Airport, whose upgrade started two years ago.

Apart from SPIA, the board of the National Economic and Development Authority, which is chaired by Mr. Duterte, has approved the proposal of NAIA Consortium to upgrade and expand NAIA and San Miguel Corp.’s offer to build a new airport in Bulacan.

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