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MetroPac firms up plans for Cebu expressway, Clark airport

Posted on June 06, 2011 08:59:05 PM [ BusinessWorld Online ]
BY NEIL JEROME C. MORALES, Reporter

METRO PACIFIC Investments Corp. (MPIC) is firming up plans to build a toll road in Cebu and operate an airport in Clark with the projects’ feasibility studies expected to be completed by the second half of the year, officials said.

“Hopefully before the year ends, we can come up with the [results of a Cebu toll road] study,” Ramoncito S. Fernandez, president of MPIC unit Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., told BusinessWorld in a chance interview.

“We are looking at the possibility of building additional toll roads [particularly to] solve congestion in Cebu,” Mr. Fernandez added.
If the plan pushes through, this will be the company’s first project outside Luzon.

Earlier, the local government of Cebu had aired its interest to enter into a build-operate-transfer scheme for a P5-billion “trans-axial highway” that would run from the northernmost town of Daanbantayan to Santander in the south.

The project, which has yet to be implemented, will cross all 47 towns and six cities. Work still remains in the “study phase,” Mr. Fernandez said, citing traffic volumes as among the factors up for review.

He added that the company allotted a few millions for the analysis.

The conglomerate’s subsidiary in the meantime operates the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and is also renegotiating its concession agreement with the government for the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx).

Metro Pacific Tollways has also reported plans to spend P25 billion for three big-ticket projects in the next four years. Segment 9 -- the four-lane, 2.42-kilometer (km.) stretch -- is eyed to connect NLEx to MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela City while the two-lane, 5.65-km.

Segment 10 is planned to run through MacArthur Highway to Radial Road R-10. These come on top of the 13.2-km. connector road that will link NLEx at C-3 Road to Skyway 1 along South Luzon Expressway in Makati.

Meanwhile, David J. Nicol, chief finance officer of Metro Pacific, said the feasibility study for the operation and maintenance of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark, Pampanga will be completed in the second half.

“I suspect [it will be ready] within three to four months,” Mr. Nicol said.

Early this year, Metro Pacific hired Madrid-based Indra Group to conduct the feasibility study.

Mr. Nicol said privatizing the airport will result in higher operating efficiency, adding that Metro Pacific allotted $250,000 for the study.

Metro Pacific wants to rehabilitate the airport and build a high-speed railway as DMIA is 85 km. away from Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country’s main gateway.

Mr. Nicol said the company will look for a partner with the technical capacity to operate the airport.

Under the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 of the National Economic and Development Authority, Subic and Clark are targeted to be logistics centers. The Civil Aeronautics Board has already approved the expansion of air services at the DMIA and the Subic Bay International Airport.

“Infrastructure projects have a good cash flow. Considering Metro Pacific already has the experience in infrastructure development and maintenance, it would be feasible for the company to invest in other opportunities,” Astro C. del Castillo, managing director of brokerage firm First Grade Holdings, Inc., said in a phone interview yesterday.

But Mr. del Castillo also warned of the regulatory risks that threaten new ventures.

In the first quarter, core profits of the listed holding firm surged by 44% to P1.13 billion from P788 million in the previous year as revenues climbed by 17% to P5.05 billion in the first three months.

Metro Pacific is the Philippine unit of Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd., which partly owns the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT).

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