Upon determining that the final application from the Puerto Rico Ports Authority and the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority to turn the management of the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport over to private hands is “substantially complete,” the Federal Aviation Administration officially opened a 60-day review period Wednesday.
Furthermore, the agency confirmed that in conjunction with the Transportation Security Administration, it will conduct a public meeting on Sept. 28 to give the public and interested parties their say in the proposed transaction, as this media outlet reported last month.
The all-day meeting is slated to start at 8 a.m. at the Verdanza Hotel in Isla Verde, during which the agency will receive comments from airport users and employees, airlines, aviation businesses and airport tenants, elected officials and community residents about the concerns, advantages or disadvantages of transferring the airport to a private operator, the agency said.
“We worked on this P3 hand-in-hand with the FAA from the start and we want to ensure that this step does the job of collecting public comment regarding a partnership that will bring great benefits for Puerto Rico at the social and economic levels,” P3 Authority Executive Director David Álvarez said. “We asked the FAA, and they agreed to accept comments in Spanish, which we hope will contribute to greater participation.”
Individuals will get five minutes to speak that day, but will also have the chance to submit written comments until Nov. 19, the FAA said in a notice released Wednesday.
“Individuals wanting to address the Federal panel are strongly encouraged to pre-register by emailing their name, affiliation and applicable group category to LMNfirstname.lastname@example.org,” the agency said.
In July, the government announced it had chosen Mexico’s Aerostar Airport Holdings for the 40-year public-private partnership contract to run Puerto Rico’s main airport facility. Ports will receive $615 million upon signing the lease and annual revenue payments over the life of the contract.
If approved, the LMM airport would become one of up to 10 such facilities under U.S. jurisdiction to participate in privatization projects under the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
Aguadilla airport lands FTZ designation
In related news, government officials confirmed Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Commerce has granted the Rafael Hernández Airport in Aguadilla free-trade zone status, which is expected to positively impact the region’s economy.
“Through a joint effort between the central, federal and municipal governments, we got approval of the application for a cutting-edge tool to enhance the enormous advantages of the Aguadilla airport,” Economic Development Secretary José Pérez-Riera said during a news conference.
“Benefits provided under the statute to operate free trade zones directly impact operational costs of companies and also facilitates exporting activity,” he said.
The EDC holds the FTZ Licence No. 61, which now includes the Aguadilla facility as site No. 24, he explained.
With the certification in hand, the central and municipal governments will get the ball rolling on developing the facility as a cargo hub that includes distribution and logistics services for domestic and international commerce, he said.
The FTZ program offers significant benefits for companies, namely an exemption from tariffs and excise taxes for foreign goods allowed in the area and that goods can be exported and/or transported from one area to another zone and are exempt from paying duties or taxes until it leaves the free zone and enters domestic territory.
The FTZ designation drew quick reaction from the Puerto Rico District Export Council, which confirmed the airport can now be “transformed into a productive facility.
The nonprofit that fosters export and international trade from businesses in Puerto Rico and the U.S. mainland said the designation will: increase the region’s activity level and GDP by generating new businesses and operations; provide the island sustainable economic development by using currently underutilized and existing infrastructure; help capture the air traffic that flies over Puerto Rico and currently goes to other destinations; and transform the region into a regional and hemispheric trade center.