Photographer: Ted Aljibe/AFP via Getty Images

Billionaires Vie Over New Manila Airport as Sy Backs Solar Group

Henry Sy, the Philippines’ richest man, has joined a group pursuing a $20 billion plan to build a new airport and seaport on reclaimed land near Manila, putting him in competition with fellow billionaire Ramon Ang.

Belle Corp., part of Sy’s SM Group, will become an almost equal part in Solar Group-led All-Asia Resources & Reclamation Corp., said Edmundo Lim, the venture’s vice chairman. He declined to say how much Belle will invest. China Communications Construction Co.’s dredging unit is also set to take part in the project, which could take five years to build, Lim said.

“This is such a big a project, and we need big muscles,” Lim said by phone. “We are still open to other partners because this project is no joke and it has may components for interested investors.”

All-Asia plans to reclaim 2,500 hectares (6,180 acres) of land near a naval and air base at Sangley Point, south of Manila, as the Philippine capital struggles to cope with a rising number of flights and increasing road traffic. The proposal competes with a 2014 plan from Ang’s San Miguel Corp. to build a $10 billion airport on reclaimed land in Manila Bay.

All-Asia has resubmitted its proposal, first made in 2013, since President Rodrigo Duterte took office on June 30, Lim said. It is now being reviewed by the investment coordinating committee of the National Economic Development Authority, he said. Duterte has signaled plans to pursue infrastructure projects and to accelerate implementation.

Building a new port and special economic zone will help ease traffic in Manila, home of the nation’s largest sea-cargo facility, Lim said. Between 6,000 and 7,000 vehicles a day travel between the Manila port and industrial sites, he said. The airport is also used by about 40,000 vehicles a day, he said.

Sy’s businesses include SM Prime Holdings Inc., the nation’s biggest property company by market value, and BDO Unibank Inc., its largest lender. Solar, owned by the Tieng brothers, has investments in industries including TV networks, real estate and consumer goods, according to Lim.

— With assistance by Clarissa Batino

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