China’s CCCC, Philippines’ Macroasia win $10 bln airport project

December 18, 2019 - 8:56 AM
Three units of Beechcraft TC90 aircraft
Three units of Beechcraft TC90 aircraft from the Japan Ministry of Defense (JMOD) taxi down a runway upon arrival for a transfer ceremony of the aircrafts to the Philippine Navy at the Naval Air Group (NAG) headquarters in Sangley Point, Cavite city, south of Manila, Philippines March 26, 2018. (Reuters/Romeo Ranoco)

China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC) and Philippine partner Macroasia Corp have won an auction for a $10 billion airport outside Manila, the latest in a multi-billion dollar push by the Philippines to modernize and decongest its overstretched infrastructure.

CCCC joined airline service company Macroasia in a consortium with the Cavite provincial government to carry out the expansion of the Sangley Point International Airport, one of two big projects that aim to take pressure off the four terminals of Manila’s notoriously packed international airport.

The size of CCCC’s stake in the Sangley project was not immediately clear.

It follows similar attempts by China’s state-run telecoms and energy firms to enter the Philippines, a country with a history of close ties with the United States, and fragile relations with China.

The CCCC-Macroasia consortium was the only bid submitted and was deemed complete, Jesse Grepo, legal officer of the selection committee, told reporters on Tuesday.

Macroasia is owned by the chairman of flag carrier Philippine Airlines.

The Sangley project involves land reclamation and expansion of a small airport, part of a major infrastructure overhaul that critics say President Rodrigo Duterte has been too slow to begin.

The project will be a big boost to an archipelago nation that has failed to attract the level of investment and tourism seen in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia, partly due to its traffic problems and inadequate roads, ports and airports.

The main gateway in Manila has been rated as among the world’s worst airports but is set for $2 billion of upgrades and operations revamps.

Conglomerate San Miguel Corp plans to build a 736 billion pesos ($14.4 billion) airport to handle 100 million passengers a year at Bulacan to the north of Manila.

Duterte has sought to befriend Beijing in the hope of securing major investments, rebuking critics who say he is gambling with national sovereignty at a time when China is accused of using force in the South China Sea and seeking to control international waters on its terms.

Some lawmakers are worried that Chinese state involvement in key sectors is a long-term threat to national security.

CCCC could be a bone of contention, having been debarred from World Bank projects in the Philippines from 2011-2017 for “fraudulent practices” under the first phase of a major road improvement programme a decade ago.

Macroasia did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Sangley airport venture.—Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Louise Heavens