Update on Manta’s Eloy Alfaro International Airport – December 2021
The construction of the new terminal and eventual concession of the Eloy Alfaro International Airport operation in Manta (MEC) has been the subject of numerous efforts from several different groups. This includes national, provincial, municipal, and foreign governments to concerned local citizens, some of whom unfortunately act more like overlords, interested primarily in maintaining their control over city infrastructure while ensuring their position as perceived leaders in the community.
Regardless of this, a small group of committed citizens keeps working every day to help local authorities overcome special interests, as well as political and financial challenges related to the development of Manta’s Airport.
The Airport Committee put in place by Mayor Agustin Intriago of Manta is currently focusing its efforts on these five issues below:
Finishing the construction of the new terminal: This process was most recently stopped due to a legal issue with the consortium of companies that was contracted to build the airport. This issue has been resolved and funds have started flowing once again to the builder. This means we should be no more than a few months away from completing this infrastructure.
Transferring the negotiation process for the concession of the Eloy Alfaro airport to the local Manta authorities: In early November 2021, during Manta’s 99th anniversary of becoming a canton, Transportation and Public Works Minister Marcelo Cabrera announced that the process of negotiation for the concession of the Manta Airport would soon be transferred from the Civil Aviation Authority to the Municipal Government of Manta. This process I am told has been delayed due to an issue between the Director of Civil Aviation and the Minister of Transportation and Public works. The Director of Civil Aviation has decided he first needs a letter from the President of Ecuador authorizing him to transfer the negotiation process to Manta. The letter from President Lasso which was requested by Civil Aviation is supposed to now be ready and is expected to arrive in the next few days to the Governor of Manabi, who will then present it to the Mayor of Manta, Agustin Intriago. This will finally transfer the responsibility to a local government instead of having the central government manage this seemingly never ending process.
Working out a win-win deal with a professional airport operator who can develop international connectivity and operate the airport efficiently: Once the negotiating ability is transferred to Manta, we will have to find out if the Korea Airports Corporation (KAC), the company who was originally selected to operate the Manta airport, is still interested in moving forward in the process. Credible sources have advised me that this company’s officials are urging the central government in Quito not to transfer the negotiation to Manta’s municipal government, and they are maneuvering to block this from happening. I will not speculate on the reason for this initiative until I speak personally with the folks from Korea Airports Corporation, however the last meeting we had scheduled a few weeks ago with KAC and local government authorities was cancelled by KAC at the last minute. We shall however soon know if they will continue to be interested in operating Manta’s airport or we will have to reopen the contest for the airport to new bidders. If we have to restart this entire process once again from step one, this will be an unfortunate development, as I believe it will mean we are at least several years away from actually having a professional operator running the Manta airport.
In order to assist and provide support to local Manta negotiators and legal teams during the entire process, we have developed a cooperation plan for the city to receive support from the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) out of Montreal.
We need to get jet fuel/avgas back to the Manta airport so equipment can refuel locally: We have spoken to government authorities as well as local fuel provisioning companies who are both interested in resolving this issue. We are encouraged that this will happen once the first three issues above are properly addressed.
Getting regional and international connectivity: We seek to attract flights from Panama, the U.S. and other countries to land in Manta on regular schedules. To bolster Manta Airport’s international connectivity appeal, in addition to promoting commerce between Manta and the Galapagos, we have been working with the mayors of Manta and the principal cities on the Galapagos Islands, Governors, Ministers of Tourism, Agriculture, Transportation and Public Works, other government agencies, and private groups to overcome the hurdles preventing the central government’s approval of the Manta-Galapagos route. Fortunately, all government officials are on-board with this plan and we are encouraged that the pest control/environmental groups, who have posed the biggest challenge to date, will eventually come around and approve the route once all requirements are met and they are satisfied.
Getting the Manta airport properly up and running is a complex effort with lots of moving parts, but we are committed to making it happen. We seek to ensure a win-win agreement is reached with whomever receives the operating rights for the airport, one that results in a truly professional operator being selected to manage the airport, who can develop the airports full potential for passenger and cargo, create connectivity, commerce, and the resulting prosperity that internationalizing Manta/Manabi through its airport should provide to its citizens.
The ad honorem members of the Mayor's Committee for the Development of Manta’s Airport have taken and continue to receive a lot of friendly fire from a few powerful local folks. Those who are accustomed to doing whatever they want for their own personal benefit, and who use their wealth and influence to try to treat Manta/Manabi like it's their personal hacienda and the Manabitas their farm hands.
Fortunately, there is a new generation of good hearted, smart, well-educated and pragmatic Manabitas who are working hard to create shared prosperity, and understand the importance of this critical infrastructure that has the potential to internationalize Manta/Manabi. This, I propose, is a benefit for the entire world.
I will conclude with the words of one of my favorite American patriots, Margaret Mead, who famously wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world, for indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Onwards and Upwards,
Nicolas Trujillo Newlin
President, Ecuadorian American Chamber of Commerce of Manabi, AMCHAM
Senior Member, Mayors Committee for the Development of Eloy Alfaro Airport of Manta
Former Ambassador of Ecuador to Canada
Former Ambassador of Ecuador to South Korea