By Poyi (Natalie) Leung
In addition to the MOP200 million loan to Viva Macau, the SAR government had signed a MOP28 million advertising contract and also granted a MOP7 million fund to the troubled low-cost carrier.
President of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) Joao Antunes also disclosed yesterday that the Tourism Crisis Management Office used around MOP3 million to assist stranded tourists in flying back home after Viva Macau’s flights got cancelled due to fuel debts.
However he did not reveal how much the government had spent on arranging affected Macau residents to fly home on alternate flights.
Secretary for Transport and Public Works Lau Sio Io and his cabinet attended the Legislative Assembly yesterday to answer lawmakers’ oral queries.
In response to Ng Kuok Cheong’s inquiry regarding the public funds that were granted or lent to Viva Macau or other air operators in all the years, Joao Antunes told the Assembly that between September 2009 and March 2010 the SAR government had sponsored Air Macau some MOP22 million for organising tours to post-quake Sichuan in mainland China.
In addition, the government granted a MOP7 million fund to each of the airline companies that flew to Macau, and Viva Macau was one of them.
Joao Antunes said Viva Macau was the only carrier that flew to Vietnam, Australia and Indonesia, and the company also told the government that it would purchase additional aircrafts very soon to launch new routes to Melbourne and perhaps even Russia.
Since the plan would be able to increase the source of tourists for Macau, Antunes said the government hence funded the carrier MOP7 million at that time.
Moreover, the government had signed a three-year advertising contract amounting to MOP28 million with Viva Macau, which allowed the company to repaint its aircrafts with new images or slogans so as to promote Macau abroad.
However, Antunes did not explain whether the government had already paid the lump sum to Viva Macau, since in normal circumstances the government will only make the payment after a company has accomplished the service stated in the contract.
From the government official’s explanation, it seems that Viva Macau would not be asked to repay any of the above funds but only the MOP200 loan.
Between October 2008 and the end of 2009, the SAR government for five separate times granted loans to the low-cost carrier, with a total amount of MOP212 million.
The first repayment of MOP40 million will be due on July 1 this year, while the second one of MOP6 million will be due in May 2012.
According to Lau Si Io, Air Macau’s concession did not restrict foreign carriers from operating services connecting a foreign destination and Macau.
He said Viva Macau was authorised to fly to 13 destinations that were not included in its sub-concession, “yet the company did not operate or only operated services to part of these destinations due to market conditions eventually”.
In order to achieve the goal of shaping Macau into a world tourism and leisure centre, Lau Si Io said the government has implemented a consultation report on the research and strategies for Macau’s civil aviation industry.
The project is to assess the impact the regional transportation projects may bring to Macau’s civil aviation and maritime industries once they are completed, and to predict the channels tourists may use to come to the Macau airport.
‘Many applications’ for Cotai land
Meanwhile, the Secretary for Transport and Public Works disclosed in response to Au Kam San’s query that the SAR government has received “a lot of applications” from companies requesting for land resources in the north of Estrada Flor de Lotus on the Cotai Strip for “tourism and entertainment purposes” over the past few years.
Lau Si Io did not specify what companies they were, adding lawmakers are welcome to file an enquiry with the government asking for the details of the applicants.
He said the government must look at each application cautiously, but gave no further information.
On the other side in Cotai, Lau Si Io told the legislature land parcels have already been reserved for public facilities and infrastructure, and projects that are to support the future needs of the University of Macau’s Hengqin campus.
On the other hand, Lau Si Io said the newly formed Public Housing Affairs Committee is expected to hold the first meeting this month, in which the members will study the long-term strategic plan for the development of housing in Macau.
In regard to Ung Choi Kun and Chan Meng Kam’s query, director of the Telecommunications Regulation Bureau Lawrence Tou Veng Keong said the government also “feels CTM’s service charges are comparatively high than neighbouring regions”.
He revealed that the bureau is working on an administrative regulation regarding licensing work, in a hope that local people will be able to use telecom services at a “more reasonable price” in the future.
The plenary meeting will continue at 3pm today at the Legislative Assembly where Lau Sio Io will be present again to answer the queries concerning public housing.