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Dutch firm to start preparation work for Bulacan airport in Q1

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

CONSTRUCTION of the P740-billion airport project in Bulacan is set to begin in the first quarter of 2021, San Miguel Corp. (SMC) said on Tuesday, with land development work to be undertaken by a Dutch company.

The Manila International Airport project “is set to take off in the first quarter of 2021, after it awarded global firm Boskalis a $1.73-billion contract” to restore the land where it will be built, SMC said in an e-mailed statement.

The company in October said groundbreaking for the Bulacan airport would take place “by the end of the year.”

SMC said it selected Dutch firm Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V., through its local unit Boskalis Philippines, Inc., to undertake land development work for the project, which will be built in the coastal areas of Bulakan town, Bulacan.

“Our selection of a global giant in dredging shows how ready, willing, and committed we are to do everything necessary to make sure this airport project is developed properly and sustainably,” SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang said in the statement.

Mr. Ang said the mega-airport is expected to be fully completed by 2024.

He noted the Dutch dredging firm, which has been involved in development projects in South Korea, Panama, Indonesia, and Amsterdam, will prepare the area to “withstand potential large earthquakes, local typhoon conditions, and even future sea level rise.”

To recall, SMC’s airport project has faced criticism from various groups over its environmental impact.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology said during a Senate hearing in September that the airport project is at risk of flooding and ground shaking.

Mr. Ang said the company will use engineering intervention to avoid the risks that come with building an airport in a coastal area.

To address such concerns, SMC has tapped Groupe ADP (Aeroports de Paris), Meinhardt Group and Jacobs Engineering Group for the construction of the airport. These firms are behind Singapore’s Changi airport, France’s Charles de Gaulle airport, and the United States’ Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International airport.

Meanwhile, Oceana Philippines in a statement said fisherfolk and civil society groups filed a petition for a Writ of Kalikasan against SMC’s airport project before the Supreme Court.

The petitioners included Bulacan-based fishermen Teodoro Bacon and Rodel Alvarez, Oceana Philippines Vice-President Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Archbishop Roger Martinez of the Archdiocese of San Jose del Monte, and Aniban ng mga Mangagawa sa Agrikultura led by Renato de la Cruz.

Oceana Philippines said the petition was filed to stop the reclamation of Manila Bay in order to save marine life, endangered birds and mangroves and ecosystems. They also claimed that the airport project did not have an environmental compliance certificate (ECC), as it was SMC’s contractor Silvertides Holdings that was issued an ECC on June 14 last year.

“We have to keep on working together in the protection, rehabilitation, and conservation of Manila Bay, not only for its economic importance and contribution to national food security, and for its historical, cultural, and aesthetic value but to make ecosystems and people resilient to the impacts of climate change,” Oceana’s Ms. Ramos said.

The case respondents include Mr. Ang, Silvertides President Hercules V. Galicia, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, Environmental Management Bureau Region III Regional Director Wilson L. Trajeco, and Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade.

A Writ of Kalikasan is a legal remedy that protects the people’s constitutional right to a healthy environment.

As of press time, SMC has not yet replied to BusinessWorld’s query for comment.

SMC shares closed 1.08% lower at P137.70 apiece on Tuesday. — with Angelica Y. Yang

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