(GFR Media)

The government of Puerto Rico is selling the regional airports of Fajardo, Patillas and Santa Isabel, which are now closed.

That route hasn´t been ruled out for five of the country's nine regional airports either, because Ponce and Aguadilla already have PPPs (Public Private Partnerships), according to the executive director of the Puerto Rico Public Private Partnerships Authority, Omar Marrero.

"Fajardo, Patillas and Santa Isabel are the only ones that are available for sale and have been authorized by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) about two years ago. We are going to update the valuations in order to make a formal process”, explained Marrero.

"The government seeks to focus on those assets that have fallen into disuse and which can be transferred to the private sector to achieve economic development, but if at any time a reasonable proposal that is good for the public interest is received, it is going to be considered", he added.

TWO DIRECTIONS. At the moment they are concentrated in two directions: to make a PPP (Public Private Partnership) possible for the regional airports of Ponce and Aguadilla, and to sell those that are closed in Fajardo, Patillas and Santa Isabel.

In all, the three airports could produce the government between $ 2 to $ 3 million, Marrero estimated. "Both processes will be running in parallel, the feasibility study of regional airports for possible PPP as well as the potential sale of the three closed airports," he noted.

He clarified that the Government has not sought for the approval of the FAA for any other sale of its nine regional airports (Ponce, Aguadilla, Arecibo, Mayagüez, Isla Grande, Ceiba, Vieques, Culebra and Humacao). In total, the Island has 10 airports in operation, adding the international Luis Muñoz Marín, which since January 2013 is managed by the company Aerostar.

Marrero said that they only focus on evaluating the feasibility of the PPP for Ponce and Aguadilla airports, because they are the only two in which potential proponents have shown interest.

The one of Aguadilla has 520,000 passengers annually, while Ponce receives 214,000 also a year.

"They have their movement. Both airports have FAA 139 certification, which allows them to receive airplanes of nine or more passengers", he said about the characteristics of both regional airports.

LESS PROFITS. He acknowledged that airports with smaller movement and, therefore, less profits, such as the one of Arecibo, represent a challenge to make some PPPs.

He also reiterated that for this type of airport, a FAA permit was not requested for sale, although he recognized that such a transaction is not ruled out.

"Sales are not being considered right now. When PPPs were considered (through Law 1-2017), the transfer of ownership is prohibited. That is not contemplated. We will do the feasibility studies to determine if a PPP is the best option. The feasibility study is what will determine if a particular project is viable as an PPP", declared Marrero.

Law 1 of 2017 amended the Public Private Partnerships Act of 2009 and named them as APPPs (Spanish acronym). The change to the statute allows not only the government to approach the private company to delegate services, but may be the reverse situation, what is known, according to the regulation,  as "unsolicited proposal" and includes the third sector.

The PPPs do not contemplate the sale, but the transfer of property of the government to a private company for not more than 50 years. They are one of the main tools chosen by the current administration to generate income.

REINVESTMENT. Thus, if the sale of the airports of Fajardo, Patillas and Santa Isabel took place, the money could be used for one of two purposes.

 "All the money that is generated from any aeronautical business, has to be reinvested in aeronautical operations or in pairing federal funds," he explained.

The contracts, through PPPs for regional airports are part of the seven projects that the government seeks to set by defining its economic viability to make them a reality in next fiscal year, which begins July 1st.

The rest of the six projects are the maritime transport service, both in the metropolitan area and outside; the automatic fine collection system, the concession of government parking lots, the replacement of water meters by electronic systems, a student life project and the concession of seaports.

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