The P17.5-billion passenger terminal at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport is proof that the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program initiated by the previous Aquino administration works. Even President Duterte could not help but praise the project when he led its inauguration last week.
Undertaken by the Philippine-Indian consortium GMR-Megawide, the terminal’s designer Hong Kong-based Integrated Design Associates (IDA) was aided by world-renowned homegrown furniture maker Kenneth Cobonpue, architect Royal Pineda and designer Budji Layug.
Malacañang aptly describes the terminal as showcasing “beautiful curved wooden roof arcs with layered glass to allow natural sunlight to seep through the terminal. This sunlight then reflects on the floor tiles containing mother of pearls found in Cebu to create a gentle glimmer similar to sand, thus representing the ‘resort-feel’ look of the airport.”
The Cebu airport is the second most important for the Philippines in terms of passenger traffic. For the past years, demand had exceeded the physical capacity of its terminal.
In 2012, the year before the PPP project was bid out, passenger traffic at the Cebu terminal reached 6.8 million, exceeding its
capacity of 4.5 million passengers.
The new terminal brings the airport’s annual capacity to 12.5 million passengers. It will serve solely as an international passenger terminal, while the old terminal will serve domestic flights.
The addition of the new terminal not only future-proofs the airport, but also opens Cebu to more international flights. Starting July 1, the airport will host 26 airlines flying to 25 international and 30 domestic destinations.
This will be an improvement from the 19 carriers, 16 international destinations and 27 domestic destinations last year.
This year and next, the airport’s operator is targeting new routes connecting Cebu to Australia, Europe and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as increasing connections to China, Japan and South Korea.
Aside from addressing the growing passenger demand in Cebu, the project will help promote tourism, stimulate commerce and spur economic activities in the Visayas.
As President Duterte noted, “without doubt, this project will become a catalyst for inclusive countryside development in the region.”
The province of Cebu now has an essential structure that can deliver world-class travel amenities to the flying public. The airport’s private operator GMR-Megawide believes the new terminal will become a lifestyle destination in itself.
The government should also consider soon the P208-billion unsolicited proposal of GMR-Megawide to further develop the airport by taking over, managing and maintaining the runway and other related facilities that remain with the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority; constructing additional taxiways and a second parallel and independent runway; and building a third terminal in the area. These are aimed at addressing future growth in air travel by allowing the airport to accommodate at least 50 million passengers a year.
The Mactan-Cebu passenger terminal is the first successful airport PPP project in the country.
The Duterte administration has replaced the PPP concept with a hybrid scheme wherein the government will do the construction part using official development assistance and official loans, and the private sector comes in later when the government bids out the operation and management contracts for those projects. The objective is to speed up project implementation.
One can only hope that the success of the Mactan-Cebu airport project can be replicated—within a much shorter period—in the different regional airports targeted for upgrading and development by the Duterte administration, especially Clark International airport, which is being touted as a viable alternative to the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
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