POSTSCRIPT / February 17, 2009 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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LRT extension design copied from Filsystems

EDSA MADNESS: Everyday, motorists and commuters passing that busy stretch of EDSA between Monumento in Caloocan and North Ave. in Quezon City are incensed by the heavy, bruising traffic, especially during rush hours.

One reason for the mess is the narrowing of the road with the ongoing work of the contractor building the columns for the projected light rail transit line to connect the LRT-1 terminal in Monumento to the MRT end-station at EDSA-North Ave.

The latest tidbit on the project is that Light Rail Transit Administration officials will be sued for syndicated estafa for allegedly copying and using without permission the design by another company that had submitted an earlier bid offer.

The Filipinas (Prefab Bldg.) Systems, or Filsystems, said it would sue LRTA officials headed by their president Mel Robles for alleged infringement on Filsystems’ rights to its extension design registered under Copyright No. 1-2006-07 on April 24, 2006.

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PROJECT UPDATE: The LRTA commitment to President Gloria Arroyo is to finish and start operating that EDSA elevated rail link before the May 2010 elections. (Yes, there will be elections.)

As of last week, ground work on the 5.71-km line on EDSA from Balintawak to North Ave., estimated to cost P1,402 million, was more than 15 percent complete.

Connecting the LRT terminal in Caloocan to the new Balintawak station, covering a distance of 2.7 km, will cost P1,398 million. Work on it was 13.8 percent complete as of last week.

The entire project, including civil and architectural works, three new stations at Balintawak, Roosevelt and North Ave., electromechanical works (except rolling stock), was initially estimated to cost P6,322.85 million.

The copyright suit may cost LRTA officials a hefty sum. If found guilty, they will have to pay for the crime of pirating the exclusive Filsystems design. The royalties due Filsystems will be another matter.

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MESSY MESHING: Although the old LRT-1 and the MRT on EDSA will finally be connected in three points — in Baclaran, North Ave. and Caloocan — to close the transport loop, their rail cars are not interchangeable.

Passengers commuting around the loop will have to disembark and then board again for their train connection. The same problem of lack of planning and integration is true with the other LRT line from Divisoria to Marikina passing through Cubao, QC.

There is supposed to be a centralized LRT authority to coordinate and seamlessly mesh the operation of all the lines, but many factors, including business considerations, prevent a workable integration.

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BID HIDDEN?: Albert Reyes, Filsystems lawyer, said the entire LRT extension design — including the designation of three stations, the train system, communications, signaling, ticketing and electric power system — is owned and copyrighted by Filsystems.

In July 2004, Filsystems submitted an unsolicited bid proposal to LRTA, complete with the required feasibility study, the basic contractual terms and the obligations of the proponent and the government, and the technical and financial components under Rule 10 of Unsolicited Proposals of the BOT Law.

Under the law, LRTA must inform any bidder within 30 days of his submission if the unsolicited bid was complete or incomplete. If complete, LRTA must declare it accepted or rejected within 60 days.

Reyes said LRTA failed to inform the National Economic and Development Authority that there was a pending unsolicited bid, so NEDA was not aware of the Filsystems offer when it shifted to solicited bids.

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PADDED FEE: Reyes said that in its meeting of Nov. 29, 2006, the Cabinet was merely shown a Pentel pen overlay copy of the Filsystems design, which he said LRTA passed off as its own.

In a hearing of the House oversight committee, it was disclosed that LRTA asked the Department of Budget and Management on Nov. 24, 2006, for P101.8 million for design consultancy (for a non-existent original design?). The amount was to be taken from a $9.6-million outlay for project supervision.

The going rate in the industry, he said, is 1 percent supervision fee. For a $120-million project, the fee should be $1.2 million — which is only one-eighth of the $9.6 million that LRTA asked for project supervision.

The detailed design is to be supplied by the winning bidder. Since the design concept was submitted by Filsystems, a losing bidder, it should not have been used.

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ERRATUM: My Postscript last Sunday on the dismissal by the Makati City Prosecutor’s office of a complaint for robbery in band against 14 persons, including me, said:

“Others accused — but also cleared by the prosecutor — were Lorna Kapunan, Erlinda Ilusorio-Bildner, Kelly Ilusorio-Raab, Raul Baria, Dennis R. Manzanal, Bernadette Yanzon-Blanco, John Benedict Sioson, Jose Ma. Ozamiz, Wilfredo Muñoz and Jose E. B. Antonio. Antonio and Muñoz are/were security officers of the office building.”

I apologize to Mr. Antonio for giving the wrong impression that he is a security guard of the Pacific Star building in Makati where the imagined robbery supposedly took place. The dismissal resolution correctly described the two gentlemen as President and Head of Safety, respectively, of Pacific Star.

Unintentionally, the misidentification in Postscript highlighted the fact that I really had not met nor did I know all my 13 co-respondents and, therefore, could not have confederated or connived with them to commit robbery.

I learned only yesterday that Ambassador Jose E. B. Antonio was, among other things, a special envoy to China and chair of the Philippine-China Business Council. His firm, Century Properties Inc., owns and manages the Pacific Star. He is one of the country’s real estate tycoons.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 17, 2009)

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