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By Doris Dum­lao-Abadilla

Con­struc­tion and en­gi­neer­ing firm Me­gaw­ide Con­struc­tion Corp. has com­mit­ted to build a 5-kilo­me­ter el­e­vated rail­way link­ing all three ter­mi­nals of Ni­noy Aquino In­ter­na­tional Air­port (Naia)—a fea­ture re­quired by the gov­ern­ment to con­sider award­ing a 25-year con­ces­sion to a pri­vate sec­tor pro­po­nent.

Me­gaw­ide, which got a sec­ond crack at the much-cov­eted mod­ern­iza­tion project af­ter the old con­sor­tium of ty­coons backed out, vowed to ban­ish the stigma of Naia be­ing among the “worst air­port” in the world and turn it into an “air­port won­der.”

Now un­der at­tack by par­ties ques­tion­ing its ca­pa­bil­ity to un­der­take the P109-bil­lion re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and the role of its for­eign part­ner, GMR of In­dia, Me­gaw­ide is op­ti­mistic on get­ting the Naia air­port con­ces­sion deal. If and when a deal is fi­nal­ized, this will be its sec­ond air­port in­fra­struc­ture project af­ter the Mac­tan Cebu In­ter­na­tional Ai­port (MCIA).

In an in­ter­view, Edgar Saave­dra, pres­i­dent of Me­gaw­ide, said the group had been given only up to 10 days to match, at the min­i­mum, the ba­sic frame­work wanted by the gov­ern­ment for the Naia con­ces­sion that the former pro­po­nent did not ac­cept. Me­gaw­ide ob­tained the orig­i­nal pro­po­nent sta­tus for the Naia project af­ter ac­cept­ing such frame­work.

Dur­ing the ne­go­ti­a­tions with the pre­vi­ous pro­po­nent, the De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion was will­ing to ex­tend the con­ces­sion term to 25 years from 15 years if the pro­po­nent would build an el­e­vated rail­way. This was among the fea­tures that be­came a deal-breaker dur­ing the pre­vi­ous ne­go­ti­a­tions with the former pro­po­nent, but Saave­dra said this would be doable. For a 4- to 5-kilo­me­ter rail­way, sim­i­lar to the air­port rail­ways seen in more mod­ern air­ports abroad, the pro­jected cost is around P10 bil­lion.

While such rail­way is yet to be built, Me­gaw­ide vowed to im­me­di­ately roll out a bus rail­way sys­tem to boost con­nec­tiv­ity within the ter­mi­nals.

“As the first and last im­pres­sion vis­i­tors and over­seas Filipino work­ers will have of the Philip­pines, Naia it­self should de­liver a pos­i­tive, un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence that peo­ple can equate with their stay. We’re not just re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing an air­port, we’re cre­at­ing a new sym­bol for the coun­try,” said Louie Fer­rer, Me­gaw­ide ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment.

In cre­at­ing the ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign for Naia, Me­gaw­ide drew in­spi­ra­tion from some of the Philip­pines’ top sight­see­ing des­ti­na­tions.

For in­stance, the pro­posed ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign for B4 the trans­for­ma­tion of from the 2,000-yearold Banaue Rice Ter­races. The cen­tral land­scape, called the “Hag­dan” (stair­case) is a sunken gar­den that’s rem­i­nis­cent of the ter­races.

These ter­races are con­tin­ued in the up­per lev­els of the new park­ing and com­mer­cial build­ing in front of the ex­ist­ing ter­mi­nal de­signed by Na­tional Artist Le­an­dro Loc­sin. The land­scape and new build­ing are en­vi­sioned as a ded­i­cated area for well-wish­ers and pas­sen­gers wait­ing for their flights. This com­mu­nal space took into con­sid­er­a­tion the close-knit cul­ture of Filipinos, Fer­rer said.

A trans­par­ent canopy ex­tends be­tween the ex­ist­ing and new build­ings, pro­vid­ing pro­tec­tion from the el­e­ments. The lat­ticed wooden de­tail pays trib­ute to Filipino weav­ing pat­terns and is seen to ac­cen­tu­ate the multi-level walk­ways that con­nect the two build­ings, cre­at­ing a dra­matic back­drop for peo­ple strolling through the area. This new fea­ture is de­signed by In­te­grated De­sign As­so­ci­ates (IDA) Hong Kong, the same ar­chi­tec­tural firm that de­signed the MCIA Ter­mi­nal 2 and the new Clark In­ter­na­tional Air­port Pas­sen­ger Ter­mi­nal Build­ing.

Orig­i­nally de­signed to han­dle 30 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year, Naia han­dled 48 mil­lion in 2019. Me­gaw­ide-GMR’s up­grade pro­posal will in­crease Naia’s cur­rent ca­pac­ity to 65 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year over a strate­gic and phased ap­proach.

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