“We’ve been asked to look at the international airport in Clark. We are looking at it. We have been talking to the CIAC to build a new airport. That is the program of the government, I understand,” said Pangilinan at the sidelines of the contract signing between the Philippine Constructors Association (PCA) and the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation (PDRF), which Pangilinan chairs.
Pangilinan said talks with the CIAC are “very preliminary” and he also did not say if he has already replied to the proposal. “There’s a change in government. All I know is that the country needs to build a new airport. We have got to build a new one.”
He said existing airports in Manila are old and congested, thus the need to build a new one. “It’s very sad. Most have new and bigger airports such as China, Indonesia and Thailand. The Philippines looks pitiful. The airport here is short, congested and in the middle of the city. We have [to] build a new airport.”
Pangilinan stressed the need to also establish a railway system going to Clark for an easy, fast and convenient way to reach the airport for those coming from Manila. “It is important. It is essential to the project. It’s got to be not just an airport. We have no problem with bus and taxi because you can use the Nlex [North Luzon Expressway]. There should be a high-speed train, otherwise the new airport won’t work,” he added.
Also, Pangilinan said his group is unsure whether to take a second look at the Laiban Dam project following reports that the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) has terminated joint-venture negotiations with San Miguel Corp.’s water subsidiary.
“I just read about it. We are looking at other sources other than Laiban already. So, I guess, in total possibility of options, we don’t know yet,” he said.
He also said the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) Group has no immediate plans to acquire or make new investments anytime soon. “Nothing…let’s digest this first,” Pangilinan said.
For PLDT, Pangilinan said the management will undertake a review on implementing cost-cutting measures.
“There’s a management review that will specifically focus on certain cost-cutting measures that will be undertaken in March. So let’s wait for that. We’re looking at maintenance cost, our rentals and our compensation. I have confidence that the men and women of PLDT and Smart respond to the challenges,” he said.
Pangilinan said last Tuesday that 2010 is another year filled with challenges—“competition shows no signs of abating, consumer wallets are tightening, elections notwithstanding, and alternative means of communications such as social networking.”
“At P41 billion in core net income already, this is a year for us to regroup, refocus and redirect efforts into new directions. We should be back on the growth track starting 2011,” he said.
PLDT reported P41.1 billion in core net income last year against P38.1 billion in 2008.This year the phone giant said it expects to post just over P41 billion in core net income.
Pangilinan said the PLDT Group is cautious as to where the industry is headed this year. Given the high market penetration, the market’s increasing preference for unlimited offers and multiple-SIM ownership, as well as competition from social networking and broadband, Pangilinan said the cellular business faces challenges.
“The market is fast-changing. We want to see where is it really heading? Who would have imagined that 10 years ago texting would become this big. But now, it has become a plateau. So, where are we headed? Is it broadband?” Pangilinan said.
The PLDT Group’s total cellular subscriber base for 2009 grew to 41.3 million subscribers, a 17- percent growth year-on-year. For 2009, Smart Communications Inc. added 6.1 million subscribers, compared with 5.2 million in 2008. Smart Buddy recorded net additions of over 1.6 million subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2009, to end the year with 24.2 million subscribers while Talk ’N Text added approximately 500,000 subscribers to end 2009 with 17.1 million subscribers.
“I believe the budget is 4.5 million in subscriber net adds this year. But I guess, maybe similar to 6 million last year if the trend in January and February continues. So, probably something closer to 6 million this year the way the first two months are trending,” Pangilinan said .
PLDT president Napoleon Nazareno had said that the trend in subscriber growth for the first two months of the year was the same in January and February of last year. This meant that the group added this year 500,000 new wireless subscribers for January and another 500,000 in February.