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From burgers to airports: George Yang bags right to run Boracay gateway

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES [ BusinessWorld Online ]

BY KRISTINE JANE R. LIU, Reporter


A COMPANY headed by businessman George T. Yang — known for growing the McDonald’s hamburger chain in the Philippines — has won a 25-year contract to develop and operate an airport which serves as a gateway to the popular resort island of Boracay.

The beaches of Boracay are world-famous.

"We are going to make the existing airport an international one that can accommodate bigger planes," Mr. Yang, Caticlan International Airport and Development Corp. (CIADC) chairman, said in an interview.

CIADC and the Transportation department yesterday signed a concession agreement giving the former the right to upgrade, expand and operate the Godofredo P. Ramos Airport in Caticlan, Aklan in the neighboring island of Panay.

The group’s plan include expanding the under one-kilometer (.95 km) runway to 2.2 km and in the near term expand the existing terminal before constructing a new facility that can accommodate 1.5 million passengers a year.

"Right now, it can accommodate 40 to 50 flights per day but mostly small local planes that have a seating capacity of 30 to 50 passengers. We hope to introduce Airbuses in the future," Mr. Yang said, adding that he expects the number of foreign tourists to go up when regional flights start coming in.

Mr. Yang said they plan to start redevelopment as soon as they get a permit to start. The entire project, he added, will likely take around three to five years and cost some P2.65 billion.

Mr. Yang said this would be his first venture into the airport industry, having focused on the residential, resorts and hotels, and food businesses.

"We joined the bidding because there is a definite need for the [bigger] airports. This is the only privatization that we are interested in so far," he said.

Details of his firm’s offer were not immediately available. The 25-year concession agreement, officials said, is renewable for another 25 years and will be implemented under the build-operate-transfer law.

Adjacent to the airport is a 10-hectare property development which will be the site of an airport hotel, condotels and other commercial establishments. The company plans to have the entire project area declared by the government as a tourism development zone.

The airport upgrade is deemed critical to the overall positioning of Boracay and Aklan as an international tourism destination, particularly for South Koreans and Chinese.

Mr. Yang, who also owns the local McDonald’s franchise through Golden Arches Development Corp., already has existing hotel and leisure developments in Boracay which include the Fairways and Blue Water golf resort and the Balaihara Newcoast Villatel.

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