Philippines' San Miguel, local firm submit offers to operate main airport

MANILA, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Philippine conglomerate San Miguel Corp and another domestic firm have submitted offers to operate the country’s ageing main airport after the government turned down another joint venture’s 109 billion pesos ($2.27 billion) proposal.

Modernising the congested Manila airport and ending chronic flight delays were among the largest projects under President Rodrigo Duterte’s $180 billion infrastructure overhaul, his signature economic policy.

San Miguel and Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions Inc (PAGSS) are in line for the project after separately submitting unsolicited bids, Ed Monreal, general manager of the Manila airport agency, said in a senate hearing.

San Miguel President Ramon Ang confirmed the bid in a text message on Thursday, saying the conglomerate was looking at a 10-year airport operation contract for Manila’s airport, which is in the south of the city.

PAGSS was not immediately available for comment.

San Miguel is already involved in another airport aimed at serving the city, a $14 billion project to its north. Construction is due to start in the first quarter of next year.

The Manila airport, which has two intersecting runways, handled 45 million passengers in 2018, way above the designed annual capacity of 31 million.

The government on Tuesday revoked the first bidder status of a joint venture between Megawide Construction Corp and India’s GMR Infrastructure Ltd, which had hoped to re-develop the airport, over what Monreal described as a lack of financial muscle for the airport’s rehabilitation and upgrade.

The partners denied that in the senate hearing.

Megawide and GMR stepped in after a consortium of six of the Philippines’ biggest conglomerates dropped out of the project in July as the impact of the coronavirus hit the viability of the main gateway.

Delays in the airport’s upgrade dealt a blow to Duterte’s promise of delivering urgently needed infrastructure before stepping down in 2022.

Operations at Manila’s airport have been slowly ramping up after the government in March imposed travel curbs as part of lockdown measures to help contain the spread of the virus. (Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales Editing by Robert Birsel)