DDEC chief: PDP lawmakers clouding airport deal
House Speaker Jenniffer González, meanwhile, said she would refer PDP Reps Jaime Perelló and Roberto Rivera to the House Ethics Committee, the Justice Department and the Government Ethics Office for warning the two consortiums vying to land the airport public-private partnership (PPP) contract that they would face a legislative investigation.
“I think it is highly irresponsible to send the message to the international investment community that Puerto Rico is not a place to invest,” Pérez-Riera said.
The DDEC chief noted the ground gained by the Fortuño administration in attracting investment to Puerto Rico that generates jobs, infrastructure upgrades, better services and more solid public finances.
“On the other hand, we have these people sending a dangerous message, threatening businesses with investigations and delays,” Pérez-Riera said.
He called on the PDP lawmakers to drop what he said are purely politically motivated moves and help present to the world a unified picture of Puerto Rico as a solid investment destination.
“Part of promotional efforts to attract investment is based on the message the Puerto Rico is a stable destination,” Pérez-Riera said. “What is dangerous in the actions of these lawmakers isn’t just that they are taking the wrong message to those they threatened, it is that that they are taking this message to all potential investors.”
The DDEC chief stressed that the point of such negotiations is always to benefit the people of Puerto Rico, and that the contracts and conditions that result are rigorous and within the letter of the law.
“The economy of Puerto Rico isn’t a game. The livelihoods of thousands of fathers and mothers depend on Puerto Rico being able to attract new investment and the realization of first-class infrastructure such as the case of the airport,” Pérez-Riera said. “So I call on them to stop this wrong message and put Puerto Rico first.”
González, meanwhile, pledged to take action against the two PDP lawmakers for using the House of Representatives as a “tool of intimidation” by allegedly “threatening” businesses that are taking part in a legally established process.
“This orchestrated conduct runs afoul of their duties in the House and I won’t allow it,” she said.
Perelló and Rivera sent letters Wednesday to the top executives of Ferrovial S.A. and Aeropuertos del Sureste (ASUR) claiming that the Fortuño administration has kept the Legislature in the dark about its plan to put the Caribbean’s busiest airport under a PPP. They also reminded the business executives that it is an election year, noting that there could be a change in administration after the November vote.
The two consortiums vying to land the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport concession submitted their final proposals this week. Public-Private Partnership Authority Executive director David Alvarez said the winner could be announced by month’s end.
Grupo Aeropuertos Avance (GAA) and Aerostar Airport Holdings LLC (AAH) were chosen last month from a field of six to place final bids for the concession.
“We have completed another important step in clearing the way for totally new investment in our economy by world-class businesses recognized for their strength and records in managing airport infrastructure,” Alvarez said Wednesday.
The Puerto Rico government is looking for a concession of 40 years, and for immediate improvements at the airport of $50 million over the first five years of the contract, as well as for a commitment for longer-term investment over the life of the contract.
Puerto Rico expects to receive an upfront payment that will allow the cash-strapped Ports Authority to pay down some of its nearly $1 billion long-term debt, as well as an annual payment based on the amount of money the operator earns from the facility over the life of the contract.
GAA is a consortium headed by Ferrovial Aeropuertos, which operates six airports in the United Kingdom including Heathrow, as well as an airport in Chile, and Macquarie Infrastructure & Real Assets, the world’s biggest infrastructure investment fund, which has invested in eight airports including sites in Brussels, Copenhagen and Australia.
AAH, meanwhile, comprises Aeroportuario del Sureste, which operates nine airports in Mexico, and Highstar Capital, which has made investments in Baltimore and London and has close relationships with British Airways, Lufthansa and Air France, according to the PPPA.
Both operators have a track record of increasing flights and passengers served, and have close relationships with many of the world’s largest airlines, according to Alvarez.
After a winner is picked (expected within one to three weeks), the deal would undergo a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) review and could be enacted as early as late this year. If completed, the deal will likely be the largest airport PPP in the U.S. under an FAA pilot program, which has been expanded to 10 airports across the nation.