POSTSCRIPT / July 29, 2007 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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This trick of naming roads, etc., after VIPs

NAMING GAME: They say that one way of ensuring government support for a project, especially big ticket infrastructure, is to name it after somebody dear to the President. I don’t know if the trick works, but I won’t be surprised if it does.

In my province, for instance, local politicians pulled a scoop when they named Clark Field, the former home base of the US 13th Air Force, the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.

If you were President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, would you allow a major airport named after your dear father go the ways of ordinary weather-beaten infrastructure standing as monuments to government neglect?

But what rules are there, if any, governing the naming of public structures after notable persons, dead or alive?

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DIVISIVE: Reader Jorge B. Navarra, a Butuanon, has written the National Historical Institute to ask if the renaming of the “2nd Magsaysay Bridge” in their city as “Diosdado Macapagal Bridge” complied with NHI requirements as prescribed by law.

Navarra reported: “This multibillion-peso bridge project spans the Agusan river about three kilometers upriver from the old Magsaysay Bridge in downtown Butuan. It was temporarily called 2nd Magsaysay Bridge.

“When it was inaugurated before the May 14 elections, its name was 2nd Magsaysay Bridge. The people of Butuan knew that a permanent name would be given in due time.

“Not a few Butuanons wanted ‘Butuan Bridge’ to identify this landmark with Butuan and inculcate pride of place among its citizens. This was a monumental project for Butuanons and naming it Butuan Bridge will inspire unity. This name will avoid the divisiveness caused by naming public structures after politicians, their relatives and their benefactors.”

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RECOMMENDATORY: Navarra recalled that during the Butuan visit of President Arroyo last July 10, the bridge suddenly sprouted signs identifying it as “ President Diosdado Macapagal Bridge.”

Then the President was reported on TV, radio and the newspapers to have accepted the resolution of the Butuan City Sangguniang Panglungsod giving the Macapagal name to it.

Did the Butuan City Sangguniang Panglungsod officially confer this name to the bridge? “If it did,” Navarra said, “was this not done in violation of the Local Government Code?”

He noted that Section 13 provides that local governments can exercise authority only over structures owned by them. It so happened that the Butuan bridge is funded by a national government loan from Japan’s ODA-granting agency.

If the Butuan Sangguniang passed a resolution endorsing to the President or to Congress the naming of the new bridge, Navarra said, this resolution is merely recommendatory.

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CONSULTATION: The Macapagal name cannot as yet be adopted, he added, but it has been placed on signs at the structure, carried in media and used by bureaucrats in referring to it.

Until a presidential proclamation is issued or a law is enacted naming the bridge, its project name “2nd Magsaysay Bridge” remains. The preparing of the proclamation or passing of a law must involve public consultations, Navarra said.

“We have no issue with the credentials of the persons being honored by naming public structures after them,” he said. “We are questioning the practice of naming highways, bridges, buildings, airports, etc., after persons using procedures that do not conform to the law.”

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WHERE’S MONEY?: Sen. Mar Roxas is pressing Malacanang to tell the people where it would get the billions needed to fund the ambitious infrastructure program that President Arroyo outlined in her last State of the Nation Address.

This makes sense, because it is easy to draw up a wish list of supposed projects and wave it before an expectant population — and another thing to produce the money to make the wish come true.

Roxas said the President mentioned only these fund sources: P1 trillion from state revenues, with tax reforms, and orders to the BIR and Customs to meet their collection targets, P300 billion from government corporations, and more billions from state financial institutions, private sector investments, local government equity, and foreign loans and grants.

But after you add up the money, he said, there is still a big deficiency.

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MASINLOC SOLD: The government announced the sale, finally, of the 600-megawatt Masinloc coal-fired power plant in Zambales.

This is significant because Masinloc is the most valuable among the generating plants of the National Power Corp. and has been the subject of questioned attempts to sell it to favored bidders.

The Singaporean-led consortium Masinloc Power Partners Co. Ltd. won the auction after submitting a $930-million bid. It will be asked to pay 20 percent of that price up front after the official transfer of the plant.

The MPPC is affiliated with Singapore’s AES Transpower Pte. Ltd., an investment holding and service company for entities involved in generating, accumulating and trading electricity.

Losing bidders included big names: Masinloc Consolidated Power Inc. (which bid $588 million), Masinloc Holdco Inc. ($606 million), Anglo Cayman Energy Development Co. Ltd. ($650 million); and First Gen Luzon Power Corp. ($710 million).

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BID CANCELLED: The first round of Masinloc bidding in 2004 failed because the only buyer, the supposed winner, would not pay the required deposit until it is assured of signing a firm supply contract with a generator or distributor.

In that bidding in 2004, YNN Pacific Consortium offered $560 million. But it failed to deliver the 40-percent up-front payment of $270 million.

The Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management which oversaw the bidding forfeited YNN’s performance bond of $14 million in July 2006.

Another major transfer of power assets months ago was that of Mirant — the biggest independent power producer — selling its assets in the country to a consortium of Tokyo Electric Power and Marubeni Corp.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 29, 2007)

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