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Singapore’s SMEC eyes ‘major role’ in NAIA O&M

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

SMEC Philippines, Inc., a unit of Singaporean infrastructure and urban development consultancy company Surbana Jurong Group, said it is now preparing its expression of interest for the technical aspect of the operations and maintenance (O&M) of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

“We are participating,” SMEC Philippines President/Country Manager Ricardo M. Yuzon, Jr. told BusinessWorld last week. “We are developing now our expression of interest for the O&M of NAIA.”

He said the professional services company, which has Australian origins, will be involved in the support facilities for the operations and management of Manila’s main gateway.

According to the company, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) recently issued a request for expression of interest.

Mr. Yuzon noted that SMEC’s parent company, Surbana Jurong Group, has been involved in various airport projects, including the expansion of Singapore’s Changi Airport.

“Just like the mother company, which was involved in the design and construction of the Changi Airport and other airports, we would want also to play a major role in NAIA, but on the technical aspect,” Mr. Yuzon said.

“Technical aspect means we can also be involved in the design of the facilities; but since the airport is already there, the next step that can be done will be the rehabilitation of the runway and rehabilitation of the facilities, especially given what happened last time that the power system shut down,” he added.

The Department of Transportation (DoTr) previously said that it was engaging the ADB for technical support in opening up the NAIA operations and maintenance to private companies.

According to its website, ADB provides support in terms of developing public-private partnership (PPP) framework and policies to facilitate increased private sector investment and participation in the development and operations of infrastructure assets.

Mr. Yuzon said SMEC is also involved as a consulting services provider in San Miguel Corp.’s airport project in Bulacan.

SMEC expects the Philippine construction industry to stay strong this year, as the Marcos administration continues the previous government’s infrastructure push.

“Inflation is still a major concern, but with signs of it stabilizing and the government eager to provide funding for much-needed projects, we are upbeat that the major projects we are involved in will push through as planned,” Mr. Yuzon said.

Inflation averaged 5.8%, a 14-year high, in 2022. The Philippine central bank expects inflation to average 4.5% this year, although it sees it returning to the 2-4% target range by the third quarter.

“The project sector, on the other hand, is still very enthusiastic and supportive of the government’s endeavor to improve the country’s economic condition,” he added.

Despite the current political and health situation, Mr. Yuzon noted many private investors are now getting into big-ticket projects.

“Whilst we see slower growth, we see the partial completion of some big-ticket rail and road projects like the North-South Railway Project Phase 1 and the opening of the Connector Road, in which SMEC was involved as a design and construction supervision consultant, to further spur economic activities between Metro Manila and connecting provinces,” Mr. Yuzon said.

SMEC is looking to do more consultancy work for water, renewable energy, transport, and reclamation projects, among others, he added.

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