Filinvest Development Corp., controlled by billionaire Mercedes Gotianun and her family, has formed a joint venture with JG Summit and Singapore’s Changi Airport Group to manage the Clark International Airport.

Filinvest will hold the largest share, with a 42.5% stake in the venture called Luzon International Premiere Airport Development, or Lipad, which means fly in the Philippine language. JG Summit, the conglomerate controlled by billionaire Lance Gokongwei and his siblings, will own 33% of the entity, the companies said in separate filing to the Philippine Stock Exchange.

The group—which also includes Changi with a 15% interest and the Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions (PAGGS) holding another 9.5% stake—won the 25-year contract to maintain and operate the Clark Airport in 2018 and assumed operations of the facility in August the following year.

Changi runs Singapore’s Changi Airport, among the world’s busiest handling 68 million passengers in 2019. PAGGS provides passenger and cargo services at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country’s main international gateway, and the Mactan International Airport in the central Philippine island of Cebu.

The Philippine government recently completed the construction of Clark Airport’s new passenger terminal at a cost of 9.4 billion pesos ($197 million). The new terminal—built by tycoon Edgar Saavedra’s Megawide Construction and India’s GMR Infrastructure—can accommodate up to 8 million passengers annually, bringing the airport’s annual passenger handling capacity to more than 12 million.

Clark Airport, the former American airbase located some 100 kilometers north of the Philippine capital Manila, is touted as an alternative to the overcrowded NAIA, which handled about 47.9 million passengers in 2019, way above the airport’s design capacity of 30 million passengers annually.

Cebu Pacific, the budget carrier owned by JG Summit, is among the airlines flying international and domestic passengers to and from Clark. Philippine Airlines, Malaysia’s low-cost carrier AirAsia and Korean Airlines also use the airport. 

Philippine business tycoons are pitching in to modernize the country’s infrastructure. Billionaire Ramon Ang’s San Miguel Corp., which has invested in toll roads and power plants, is developing a mega airport with a capacity to handle 100 million passengers annually on a sprawling 2,500 hectare (25 million square meters) site in Bulacan province, located 68 kilometers south of Clark Airport and about 32 kilometers north of NAIA.

Filinvest—founded by Mercedes Gotianun and her late husband Andrew Gotianun Sr. in 1955—has also been investing in power projects. With a net worth of $1.5 billion when the Philippine Rich List was last published in September, the Gotianuns also have interests in real estate, hospitality, sugar and banking. 

JG Summit has also invested in telecommunications and power. Founded by the late tycoon John Gokongwei Jr. in 1990, the diversified conglomerate has interests in real estate, airlines, food and banking. The six Gokongwei siblings—Lance, Robina, Lisa, Faith, Hope and Marcia—inherited their father’s fortune after his death in November 2019. They had a net worth of $4.1 billion.

Originally Published Manila News-Intelligencer: 2021-06-09 18:10:00

By Aquilino Managbanag

Aquilino Managbanag EXPERIENCE: Four years at The Asian Pacific Post, a weekly Canadian newspaper founded in 1993 in Vancouver, British Columbia. The newspaper specialized in reporting Asian issues, and has a readership of 160,000. It has a sister publication in The South Asian Post. EDUCATION: University of Santo Tomas – Manila -- The private Roman Catholic research university is Asia’s oldest existing university. The university takes pride in keeping the Catholic faith and beliefs prominent while holding true to its centuries-old tradition of academic excellence.