Monday, 27 April 2009

Manila-Clark railway attracts MPIC’s interest

Jessica Anne D. Hermosa

METRO PACIFIC Investments Corp. (MPIC) is considering bidding for a 120-kilometer high-speed rail project that will link the Metro Manila and Clark Freeport airports, a Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) official said on Friday.

The railway is being touted as a key component of plans to make Clark’s Diosdado Macapagal International Airport the country’s main hub given the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s (NAIA) limited capacity for expansion.

"Right now, we can see that NAIA will become congested. Twenty-five million international and domestic passengers arrive in NAIA [annually]. That will keep on growing," CIAC President and CEO Victor Jose I. Luciano told an outsourcing forum.

In contrast, the Clark airport sits on land roughly four times as large as NAIA’s and its runways are the only ones in the Philippines that can accommodate the large Airbus A380, he said.

"We are looking at ... the Japan model where Narita is the international airport and Haneda in Tokyo is the domestic airport," Mr. Luciano said.

"The other day I was with [MPIC chairman] Manuel V. Pangilinan. He has the interconnecting right-of-way between Caloocan and Magallanes and that is the key," he said. "[MPIC] will have an advantage because it has the right-of-way."

Mr. Pangilinan, who also heads the country’s biggest telco, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), was not available for comment but an official confirmed MPIC’s interest.

"Since [the firm] is in talks to connect the South Luzon Expressway to the North Luzon Expressway, it makes sense to look at the project," the official, who requested anonymity, said.

Trains are expected to run at over 200 kilometers per hour during the 34- to 45-minute journey.

Mediaquest Holdings Inc., a unit of the Beneficial Trust Fund of PLDT, has a minority interest in BusinessWorld.

J. Roldan, Carlo Niccolo Bautista
Business Mirror

BUSINESSMAN Manny Pangilinan has reportedly expressed interest to participate in the planned $3-billion high-speed rail project that will connect the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark (DMIA) to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia). This rail system is the key for the conversion of the Naia to a domestic airport and the DMIA as the country’s main international airport in five to 10 years.

Victor Jose Luciano, Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) president and CEO, said in his presentation at a forum on Friday in Holiday Inn Clark that he had a discussion with Pangilinan on the matter last week.

Luciano said Pangilinan can provide the right of way for the properties that the proposed high-speed rail will be passing through from Caloocan to Magallanes.

“With this right of way, we can now connect the Naia to Clark,” Luciano said.

Interviewed by reporters later, Luciano said currently, they have no problem with the right of way from Clark to the Caloocan part of the North Luzon Expressway. This is why getting the right of way from the Caloocan-to-Magallanes portion is critical for the project.

Luciano said the project will probably cost at least $3 billion, with $1 billion going to the right of way, and the $2 billion to be spent for the construction and the trains.

He said this will be a joint-venture project and they are targeting to choose the private-sector partner within the year.

CIAC, he said, will entertain an unsolicited offer and once they have finished the negotiations and agreed on the terms, they will make an announcement.

“Anybody can match it,” he said.

Luciano said the airlines want this high-speed rail—bringing passengers from Manila to Clark and vice versa in just 45 minutes—to be constructed first before they would transfer to DMIA.

If plans go smoothly, he said the rail system will be finished in five to 10 years.

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