By Joe Zaldarriaga

Bright skies ahead with NAIA privatization

After much discussion and anticipation, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) will finally be privatized and modernized —a welcome move that is expected to drive economic growth and position the Philippines as a premier tourism and investment hub.

The Department of Transportation has awarded the contract to the consortium led by San Miguel Corp. (SMC) which offered the government the highest revenue share of 82.16 percent. The group, which includes the operator of South Korea's Incheon airport, will manage the Philippines' main gateway until 2039, with a possible 10-year extension based on performance.

Based on news reports, the consortium is tasked to spend a minimum of PHP88 billion in the first six years to upgrade airport services, which badly need private sector intervention.

Optimism couldn’t be higher for the improvements that the consortium will bring to the airport, especially with recent news reports that spotlight new and old problems in NAIA. From bed bugs to rats lounging at NAIA terminals, one can only surmise that the situation in our main airport seems to be getting worse by the day.

It is in this light that I view the government’s decision to entrust the NAIA modernization to a private consortium to be a strategic one —geared towards achieving the highest possible level of service, efficiency, innovation, and world-class standards that our countrymen, investors, and foreign visitors, truly deserve.

It must be emphasized that the modernization of NAIA is not merely about upgrading facilities but rather a concerted effort to enhance its reputation following years of being labeled as one of the worst airports in the world. With the support of the private sector and the trust of the government, NAIA is poised to become the leading travel hub in the region.

Improving NAIA is also aligned with the government’s goal of becoming an upper middle income country in the next few years since its modernization is expected to help stimulate economic growth, foster global connectivity, create more jobs, and lure in more investors.

In this day and age, having a state-of-the art airport has become a necessity to facilitate and enable international trade and travel, attract more investors and tourists, create more jobs, and improve our international reputation.

While we have yet to see how the SMC-led consortium will live up to expectations, it is safe to say that we can already see bright skies ahead given the group’s commitment to invest over PHP122 billion for the NAIA modernization program in a span of 25 years. This effectively ensures the longevity of the gateway as well.

The involvement of the private sector, through this partnership with the SMC-led consortium, also serves as a blueprint and testament to the power of public-private partnerships in enabling change and progress for the country. In the case of NAIA for example, the revenue-sharing model ensures that the benefit is extended to the government and in effect to the Filipino people.

By relieving the government of airport maintenance and modernization costs, public funds can be redirected for other sectors that need additional support such as agriculture, education, social services and healthcare.

Public-private partnerships are the way to go to efficiently and effectively bring to life infrastructure projects as well as nation-building programs. The government can leverage on the wealth of experience, expertise, and resources of the private sector —which I am confident they are more than willing to share with the government for the collective benefit of all— in realizing various projects for the public.

By actively pursuing collaborations between the government and the private sector, we can drive sustainable economic progress that results in benefits that are collectively felt and reaped by all.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.