The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration approved a contract that gives a private firm a 40-year concession to operate San Juan's Luis Muñoz Marin International Airport, the Puerto Rico Ports Authority said Tuesday.

Aerostar Airport Holdings is capable of operating the terminal in accord with all relevant regulations, the FAA concluded.

In a brief statement noting the FAA finding, the Ports Authority said that the final decision about the contract is subject to a series of conditions, and that the finance team of Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla must study the document to present him with its recommendation.

Puerto Rico has seen wide opposition to the airport deal, which is a legacy of the administration of Gov. Luis Fortuño, who lost his bid for a second term in last November's elections.

Aerostar Airport Holdings is a 50-50 joint venture between Highstar Capital, an infrastructure investment firm, and Mexican airport management firm Grupo Aeroportario del Sureste.

Puerto Rico's non-voting representative in the Congress in Washington, Pedro Pierluisi, said about the FAA decision that the island has no alternative but to privatize the administration of the airport.

"If we want to have an airport worthy of the 21st century that attracts tourists and increases the flow of passengers," we have to privatize its management, said Pierluisi, a member of the same party as Fortuño.

The speaker of Puerto Rico's lower house, Jaime Perello, one of the public figures who have expressed their opposition to the contract, said Tuesday that putting the airport's management in private hands for the next 40 years means surrendering part of Puerto Ricans ability to manage their own affairs. EFE