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House panel okays SMC Bulacan airport franchise

A House of Representatives’ committee has approved a measure granting franchise to the leading conglomerate San Miguel Corp. to build and operate an international airport in Bulacan.

The House Ways and Means Committee approved the substitute bill, particularly its significant tax provisions, that would allow SMC to build a new airport to be dubbed as the “New Manila International Airport” in the coastal areas of Bulakan, Bulacan, around 30 kilometers north of Metro Manila.

The plan is expected to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and support growth and development in Central Luzon.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, committee chair, said the project would be beneficial with the P740-billion infrastructure investment that would “come entirely out of the private sector’s hands”.

Salceda noted that the committee has provided some tax concessions in the proposal to ensure stronger guarantees of returns for the public.

“By tempering the tax provisions, we made sure that the Filipino people will get even more economic benefits for less taxpayer cost,” he said. “By making the tax provisions fairer, we are making sure that the public gets more returns from this project.”

The Bicolano lawmaker said under the profit-sharing agreement in the franchise bill, SMC’s subsidiary in charge of operating the airport would share half of its profits to the government above a 12-percent profit margin, and all profits above 14 percent.

He said it is critical that all other incomes derived outside airport operations should be taxed regularly.

“There will be hotels and restaurants in the surrounding ‘Airport City,’ so we want to make sure that the franchise’s tax privileges only extend to the airport operations,” he said.

He said his panel has made the final version of the bill more financially and economically beneficial to the Filipino people.

“This is probably the biggest single-item investment in the country’s history. San Miguel is a Filipino company that has kept nearly all of its money here, to develop this country,” the Albay solon said.

“They are doubling down on their commitment to Philippine development with this investment. I want the airport to happen on fair and equitable terms”.

Meanwhile, Private Public Partnership Center chairman Ferdinand Pecson has assured the committee that the government would not have financial obligations to SMC.