World-class “aerocity” on the rise | Company Applicant

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DREAMGATEWAY Exterior design of SMC’s new P740 billion Manila International Airport in Bulakan, Bulacan, the most expensive infrastructure project in the history of the Philippines. —CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

Ramon S. Ang is never short of ideas, especially when it comes to expanding the business and economic footprint of one of the country’s largest conglomerates, which he leads.

When we sat down for an interview recently, however, the president and CEO of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) seemed more focused than usual on one particular project – a mega project that, by its own admission, won’t start making money for another two decades. after its completion.

At a planned total cost of 740 billion pesos ($13.5 billion) – to be financed solely by the company without a single penny of government funding – Manila’s new international airport in Bulakan, Bulacan, is the most expensive infrastructure company in the country’s history. whether by a public or private entity.

“This is a heritage project that will benefit millions of travelers and give a boost to the economy in terms of job creation and economic growth,” he said. “And if you have seen the [architectural] plans, you will know that this airport is something we can all be proud of as Filipinos.”

Currently under construction on 2,500 hectares of coastal land along Manila Bay, the airport will have a total of four parallel runways when completed, two on either side of a sprawling terminal building that will have a total of one million square feet under a massive roof.

Iconic airport design

The structure, Ang says, will rival those of Hong Kong and Singapore and put the country on the world map in terms of iconic airport designs.

From an operational perspective, it will also improve the overall airport experience for travelers who currently have to spend, on bad days, up to two hours to negotiate the entire check-in and immigration process at the airport. international Ninoy Aquino (Naia) existing. .

Ang says he personally oversaw the design of the terminal building, including the main departure area aisle which will be 12 lanes wide, to accommodate up to 240 vehicles at a time, which will offload passengers onto a 15 meter wide sidewalk where their luggage will be pre-screened.

‘Security screening will begin at that time when your luggage is still outside,’ he says, explaining that roving bomb-sniffing dogs will be used to isolate for further inspection any luggage that may pose a risk. for security even before they are brought into the terminal building.

“With the technology we’re putting in place, including 24-hour advance traveler pre-screening, you’ll be able to complete check-in and clear immigration within minutes of entering the building,” it adds. -he.

The current construction phase (30% of the land development has been completed) will create direct and indirect employment for approximately 1 million workers in Bulacan and surrounding provinces.

At full capacity, the airport will be able to efficiently facilitate the movement of up to 100 million travelers each year in comfort. By contrast, Naia’s last peak capacity – despite almost blowing to the brim – was 47 million passengers before the pandemic hit.

Ramon S. Ang

Ramon S. Ang

Does he worry about efforts to develop Clark International Airport or Sangley Point as alternative air gateways to Manila?

Ang ignores the threat, saying there are no concrete plans left for Sangley Point, while Clark is 110 kilometers from the capital.

“But Bulacan Airport is only 22 kilometers from Rizal Park,” he notes, adding that a proposed extension of Roxas Boulevard further north along the Manila Bay coastline will reduce travel time less than 20 minutes between “aerocity” and the metropolis. .

If plans do not fail, the new airport with its first two runways will be operational by 2026.

Build, build, build

While all of this is happening, Ang is also juggling other parts of San Miguel’s vast empire to ensure they continue to grow during what many business watchers expect to be tough economic times. for the country.

One particular venture he is deeply involved in is the conglomerate’s new billion-dollar battery storage venture which aims to improve the country’s energy sector by providing additional electricity during peak hours.

Under this program, San Miguel is building battery storage facilities across the country capable of storing up to 1,000 megawatts of electricity that will be released into the grid during times of increased demand, typically four in the morning. and four o’clock in the evening.

“During off-peak hours, these batteries are recharged and the stored electricity will be released again during peak hours,” says Ang, explaining that the business is profitable because electricity is sold at an average of P10 per kilowatt hour. during peak demand and can be purchased [for recharging the batteries] at P4 per kilowatt hour during the hours of the day when demand is low.

Ang is also focused on completing the 77 billion peso San Miguel Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 7 project – as soon as possible to take advantage of the resumption of economic activity as the pandemic is subsiding.

“Initially, we will be able to accommodate 350,000 commuters per day between Quezon City and San Jose del Monte [in Bulacan]but this will increase to 800,000 per day once the MRT-7 is fully operational,” he said, adding that trials should begin before the end of 2022.

Ang says he has other plans for the conglomerate on the drawing board but is reluctant to reveal them just yet, noting that business rivals are often keen to copy his ideas or mobilize opposition against them.

“So we’ll keep quiet for now and work hard on the ones that exist,” he adds with a laugh.

This hard work appears to be paying off as the conglomerate is expected to return to its group-wide revenue level of 1 trillion pesos by the end of the year – an amount not seen since before the pandemic hit – thanks to the strong performance of San Miguel Foods and Beverages and Petron Corp.

“Overall it’s a difficult time for everyone, but we’re ready for it.” INQ


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