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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

House of Representatives turns its attention to Aerostar

Last September, Jorge Hernández (left), president and CEO of Aerostar, showed Joel Piza, director of the Ports Authority, the progress of the rehabilitation work on Terminal D.

By The Star Staff

The House of Representatives will investigate the company in charge of managing the Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, Aerostar Holdings, and its compliance with the clauses of the contract and the programs developed as a result of that transaction after receiving information that they have an alleged deficient operation scheme similar to that of the LUMA Energy consortium.

House Speaker Rafael Hernández Montañez, along with legislators José Rivera Madera and Ángel Fourquet Cordero, said that “Aerostar was an inexperienced company, whose parent company in Mexico had no expertise in managing airports in the United States and depended on contributions from affiliates to raise the required capital. In LUMA’s case, it did not even exist before it was awarded a 15-year contract to manage our power grid. The similarities between the modus operandi of these companies and the circumstances under which the contracts were awarded raise suspicions,” said Hernández Montañez.

As part of the investigation, a letter will be sent to Aerostar requesting information on the administration of the Luis Muñoz Marín airport since it passed into the hands of that company, compliance with the established contract, the current conditions of the port facilities, upcoming projects to be developed and the benefits achieved for local tourism. This request for information is supported by House Resolution 795, which was unanimously approved last September.

“As with the ill-fated LUMA contract, the agreement with Aerostar is tailor-made to benefit the private operator and has Puerto Rico’s hands tied for 40 years since it does not include operating parameters and has no clear evaluation metrics or consequences for non-compliance,” said Rivera Madera. “It is time for someone to investigate and oversee Aerostar, which does not answer to anyone, as we have done with LUMA.”

The PDP representatives denounced that Aerostar is currently facing a lawsuit filed by Airport Shoppes for anti-competitive, discriminatory and monopolistic conduct, taking advantage of the pandemic caused by COVID-19 to economically strangle the concessionaires of food and restaurants at the airport. In addition, the claim also explains that Aerostar used federal funds to cover its losses associated with the pandemic and ignored federal agency guidelines and regulations that expressly required relief from facility rents.

“In the ten years that Aerostar has been managing the airport, it has had lousy relations with the concessionaires, which have earned it multi-million dollar lawsuits, and has exceeded its authority, all without the Public-Private Partnerships Authority or the Ports Authority intervening. The supervision of this contract is practically non-existent; there is no transparency in the management of its operations, and they fail to comply with their promises without any repercussions,” said Fourquet Cordero, who presides over the Public Funds Oversight Committee.

Hernández Montañez said he is not opposed to the public-private partnership (PPP) model but pointed out that they must be companies with previous experience in the area.

“In the House of Representatives, we led the investigation and oversight process against LUMA, which uncovered all the irregularities in the operation of this company; Aerostar, or any other PPP, will not be the exception, and we will monitor that they comply with the law and provide a quality service for the benefit of the people,” concluded the House president.

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