An open letter to the President

"It is clear as day that some people are prepared to simply bend the rules."


Dear Mr. President,

Early this month, you expressed your utmost disappointment over the unrelenting corruption in government. I share your frustration and I truly admire you for your honesty and courage in admitting that corruption still persist even under your administration.  You even offered a P50,000-P100,000 reward for anyone who can give you leads about the corrupt practices in the government.

While others would do their best to hide this ugly truth, you are squarely dealing with this problem without pretense. 

I believe you when you said that you want to put an end to this cycle of corruption that is bleeding our country dry. And I also know that you alone cannot defeat this enemy. You deserve all the help needed to expose and punish these rogue government officials who have been stealing our tax money.

Mr. President, several weeks ago, I wrote about a clear and unquestionable case of corruption in the proposed P107-billion Ninoy Aquino International Airport expansion project involving Megawide Construction Corporation. Maybe you want to take a look.

The Department of Transportation headed by Secretary Arthur Tugade has endorsed the unsolicited proposal of Megawide to expand portions of the NAIA through a Build-Operate-Transfer scheme despite its non-compliance to the minimum requirement set under the law for such projects.

Megawide, which was a main government contractor during the Aquino administration (In case you don’t know, Megawide cornered five of the eight BOT projects that was rolled out during the time of Noynoy Aquino), somehow managed to convince the DoTr that it would refurbish NAIA and in return, it would run and manage the country’s biggest and busiest airport for the next 25 years

The DoTr is pushing Megawide’s airport expansion project despite the fact that it was already red-flagged by the Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) because of serious defects on the company’s proposal.

For one, Megawide has committed gross misrepresentation when it prematurely claimed in its original proposal that it has partnered with the Indian firm GMR purposely to project an impression of financial stability, but it turned out this is not true. It was only very recently that GMR agreed to back Megawide.

The NEDA-ICC is also questioning the financial capability of Megawide in carrying out the expansion project which would give the company full control of the NAIA operation for a quarter of a century.  The NEDA-ICC maintains that Megawide does not have the equity to conduct expansion work of NAIA.

Under Republic Act 6957 or the BOT Law as amended by RA 7718, private sector project proponents must have an “adequate financial base to implement said project consisting of equity and firm commitments from reputable financial institutions to provide, upon award, sufficient credit lines to cover the estimated cost of the project.”

Rule 5, Section 5.4.c of the Implementing Rules and Regulation of Republic Act 6957 clearly states that “the prospective Project Proponent must have adequate capability to sustain the financing requirements for the detailed engineering design, Construction and/or operation and maintenance phases of the project, as the case may be.”

With a declared net worth of P17.998 billion, Megawide wants to enter into a contract to expand and rehabilitate NAIA. This undertaking would require at least P107 billion. In the meantime, Megawide chairman and CEO Edgar Saavedra admits that they are trying to raise more capital by resorting to the capital market.

Quite unexpectedly, no less than Carlos Dominguez and Karl Kendrick Chua, Finance Secretary and Acting NEDA Secretary, who both co-chair the ICC, validated my point when they returned the unsolicited proposal to the office of Secretary Tugade. They cited the same reasons I have raised.

Surprisingly, when Megawide held a press briefing last November 16, it did not refute any of the points raised against them. They simply raised the possibility of the issue being raised before the Cabinet to pave way for a Swiss Challenge, which hopefully they say, could be completed by early next year.

Also, Manuel Louie Ferrer, Megawide’s managing director for transport, said the construction firm is set to submit its last remaining requirement to the government that week. However, as of November 19, 2020, the date stamped on the letter of Dominguez and Chua, Megawide has yet to submit the required documents.

Also, while Megawide has reportedly relayed their intention to suspend the Mactan Airport project which cost P90.1 billion, to concentrate on the NAIA project, Dominguez and Chua insists they are still under capital for the P2.3 billion NAIA expansion.

I tried to get the DOTr’s side, sending text messages to Tugade and Undersecretary for Planning and Project Development Ruben Reinoso but only the latter responded, sending me the following text message: “I understand MIAA will respond.” But up to now, I haven’t got any more messages from them.

So, the question remains, why is the DoTr so determined to give the NAIA expansion project despite the clear objection of NEDA and even the Public-Private-Partnership Center which also see this as questionable and a violation of the Graft and Corruption Practices Act. Even members of Congress are accusing the DoTr of committing corruption for pushing the Megawide proposal.

So there Mr. President, you don’t need to look far in your search for corrupt officials in your government. It is clear as day that some people are prepared to simply bend the rules, including our laws, just to make sure that Megawide will get its way.

Now, where’s my reward?

Topics: Megawide , Rodrigo Duterte , Arthur Tugade , Carlos Dominguez , Karl Kendrick Chua
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