POSTSCRIPT / October 14, 2014 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Send gov’t mission to Ebola-hit Africa!

EBOLA EPAL: You must have seen videos of health workers in full protective suits like they were astronauts on a lunar walk then heard the news that one of them had proved positive for the Ebola virus that has claimed at least 4,000 lives.

We are bringing this up because an epal in government is suggesting that we send health workers to the African countries hit by Ebola and do whatever we can for those people in distress.

I second the motion, but only if the delegation — assuming we can buy, steal or borrow enough of that lunar outfit — will include the proponent as chief of mission assisted by the Three A top honchos of the departments of budget, transportation and agriculture.

The delegation must include also the five most impertinent senators and a dozen DAP-tainted congressmen. Since it would be too risky to have them return after exposure to Ebola, we can arrange for their chartered plane to be burned where it had landed in Africa.

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IMITATION CARS: Include in that Ebola delegation the DoTC commissioner who cooked up the tuwid na daan deal of buying 48 Chinese-made imitation coaches to mix chopsuey-style with the Czech-designed trains of the MRT-3 running on rickety rails atop EDSA.

We are still checking reports that some Chinese tailors recently came over with tape measure and Manila paper to copy the specs of the Czech coaches. Apparently they want to make sure the test cars they promised to deliver next year will fit the system.

During the fitting, the old MRT trains may have to stop running for a time (if by then they have not been grounded by corruption and criminal neglect) to enable the Chinese to use the rails for testing their imitation cars.

Incidentally, how come no senator in the endless MRT hearings has bothered to ask if passengers and third parties are insured and to what extent. One of these days, god forbid, a train might careen off the worn-out rails and fall into the EDSA traffic below.

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MAINTENANCE MESS: While the Chinese were given most-favored access by the DoTC (the MRT operator), it was not so with Japanese experts contracted by the MRT Corp. (the owner) to do a technical audit of the maintenance work from the time Sumitomo Corp. was replaced late 2012.

Tasked to do the audit was MTR Hong Kong, which then asked for the service records. But the Hong Kong group was given only the records from June to July 2014, which were insufficient for the audit. Why hide the facts?

Sumitomo had a 10-year contract that was extended several times. In October 2012, then MRT general manager Al Vitangcol said without giving any reason that its contract could no longer be extended. He gave MRT Corp. 12 days to find a replacement.

But since a proper bidding would need at least 90 days, Vitangcol was allowed to appoint its favored PH Trams under a negotiated contract for six months. The contract was extended until September 2013, when PH Trams was replaced by APT Global.

Vitangcol and several DoTC officials led by Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya are now facing charges for their handling of the maintenance contract.

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PERFECTED CONTRACTS: On related projects, recall that the government recently signed the contract with private sector developers for the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) extension project connecting Manila and Cavite.

The implementation under the Public-Private Partnership program will be undertaken by the Metro Pacific Investment Corp. (MPIC) consortium. Last we checked, the green light has been flashed by Malacañang.

For a while, there was apprehension that this project being awaited by millions of commuters from south of Manila would be waylaid by the usual operators pouncing on juicy contracts already signed and awaiting implementation.

The freezing or cancelling of perfected contracts for big projects sends negative signals to investors, particularly those interested in the PPP. Doubts on the insulation of the bidding and awards processes from external and political influences should be dispelled.

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BUOYED HOPES: President Noynoy Aquino’s recent trip to Europe where he made a pitch for the PPP buoyed hopes that more sizable foreign direct investments would come in. His announced having received some $2.3 billion in investment pledges was a good sign.

He should keep reinforcing the perception on the sanctity of contracts if the momentum triggered by that pitch in Europe is to be sustained and get foreign investments flowing into the big-ticket PPP projects.

In the Cabinet, Secretary Abaya and Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson are among those whose firm hand is needed to have PPP projects already covered by binding contract carried out.

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TRANSPO PROJECTS: Some of the major projects already awarded, aside from MPIC’s LRT Line-1 extension, are the Mactan-Cebu International Airport passenger terminal capacity project to the GMR-Megawide Group, and the NAIA Expressway Project to the Ramon S. Ang-led Optimal Infrastructure Development.

The PPP Center said other transportation-easing projects already in the pipeline are two integrated transport system projects and the construction of the Laguna Lake Expressway Dike.

Two other transportation-related PPP initiatives are awaiting their fate: the aborted MPIC NLEX-SLEX connector road project and the Cavite-Laguna Expressway Project won earlier by the tandem of the Aboitiz and Ayala Groups.

These PPP projects will not be completed under the President’s term, but Singson and Abaya can make sure the Aquino administration will be remembered through these projects initiated during his term.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 14, 2014)

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