* Plan comes under gov’t $180 bln ‘Build, Build, Build’ scheme
* San Miguel’s proposal subject to Swiss Challenge
* Project to help decongest Manila airport (Adds approval for 19 other projects)
MANILA, April 26 (Reuters) - The Philippines has approved 20 infrastructure projects, its finance minister said on Thursday, including a $14 billion international airport proposed by the country’s largest firm by revenue, San Miguel Corp.
The Philippines, one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies, is expanding, upgrading and building new infrastructure with the help of the private sector under its $180 billion “Build, Build, Build” programme.
Projects under the plan so far include bridges, dams, roads and a $957 million Subic-Clark railway connecting the Philippines’ two freeport zones and other major economic hubs on the main island of Luzon.
San Miguel’s proposal is in line with an aggressive expansion strategy it has pursued since 2008 to bolster revenue. Since then, it has added infrastructure, mining, petroleum and power assets to its staple food and beverage businesses.
The National Economic and Development Authority’s board approved San Miguel’s 735.6 billion pesos ($14 billion) “unsolicited proposal”, subject to a final review, to build an airport in Bulacan province, near the capital Manila, Finance Secretary Carlos Domiguez said in a mobile phone message to reporters.
The airport is aimed at easing congestion at the country’s main gateway in Manila.
San Miguel’s proposal will be subject to a Swiss Challenge under government rules, meaning other groups will be invited to make competing offers, with the original bidder given the right to match any better proposal.
In November, San Miguel said the airport project would be constructed without any government subsidy and could be completed in five years upon the issuance of relevant government approvals.
The company had planned to invite other Filipino investors to participate in the project and said it would operate the airport under a build-operate-transfer scheme and a 50-year concession with the government.
Among other “Build, Build, Build” projects approved so far are the 12.6 billion pesos expansion of Clark International Airport, a 39.2 billion pesos flood-control project in the southern Mindanao region, and a 27.4 billion pesos bridge project in Manila. (Reporting by Enrico Dela Cruz; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Christopher Cushing)