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Lawmaker defends President's Bridge Program

MANILA, Philippines - Rep. Teodorico Haresco of the party-list group Ang Kasangga defended yesterday the President’s Bridge Program, which the Aquino government has inherited from three previous administrations.

“I stand before you today because I am forced to defend myself from unwarranted and malicious accusations of a certain senator regarding the successful 18-year-old President’s Bridge Program or Tulay ng Pangulo,” he said in a privilege speech.

He was referring to Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, who has labeled the program as the “mother of all scams” and that Haresco was the brains behind the modular bridge-building project.

He said politics was behind Osmeña’s attack against him, since the senator wanted to field a female friend as his opponent in the congressional race in Aklan, the Kasangga lawmaker’s home province, where he has filed his certificate of candidacy for congressman.

Haresco was Philippine representative of Mabey & Johnson, a British company that supplied the modular bridges needed by the President’s Bridge Program.

“The Tulay ng Pangulo has been around for nearly 19 years, covering the time of President Ramos, President Erap, former PGMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), all the way to the present. Mabey & Johnson delivered 1,218 bridges, inclusive of 75 built entirely from materials savings, meaning without cost to the government. In fact, in 2007, the government was the beneficiary of savings amounting to P2.2 billion, equivalent to 150 more bridges and two more flyovers,” he said.

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He said the British company’s cost per linear meter “was P480,000, but that is inclusive of steel decks, substructures and superstructures.”

He said Osmeña erred in putting the price at P560,000.

“Most importantly, over 18 years, three administrations, and numerous key departments involved, the project has incurred no cost overruns, I repeat, no cost overruns, according to the annual reports of the Commission on Audit,” he added.

He claimed that Osmeña is aware of the audit reports, but that he has chosen to ignore them and instead launched a “malicious and baseless” attack against him and the bridge program.

He pointed out that the loans the government incurred for the program were denominated in Japanese yen “because the yen has been stable for the last 15 years and any currency fluctuation is not substantial enough to affect the Philippine credit standing.”

“Altogether, this currency scheme for Tulay ng Pangulo has saved the country billions from a strengthening yen. Why did no one question the scheme? Because this cross-currency denomination has proven most advantageous to the Philippine government,” Haresco stressed.

He said before the Tulay ng Pangulo, the country could only source loans from the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank and the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund.

In 1994, the Tulay ng Pangulo opened the floodgates for ODA (official development assistance), ushering in bilateral loans from seven countries namely the UK, Japan, Austria, Spain, Korea, France, and Switzerland, he said.

He said the grant component of the loans averaged 38.6 percent, instead of the usual 25 percent. 

He urged Osmeña to visit the bridges built under the program.

“A visit to the Tulay ng Pangulo bridges in the countryside by this honorable senator will bring him into contact with the state-of-the-art supplier’s structures, heavy equipment and storage facilities; not to mention our own DPWH and local workers that now have the expertise to erect these modular steel panel type bridges,” he said.

Osmeña would also be able to appreciate the benefits the bridges brought to the communities where they were built and to their residents, who do not have to expose themselves to danger by crossing rivers to go to schools, public markets or hospitals, he said.

“May I add, with all humility, that at one point in time, I was the first Filipino to send British-made bridges to Vladivostok in Russia,” he said.

He also denounced what he described as the “Gestapo tactics” used by Osmeña in getting information about him.

“He has stooped so low as to use his National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) assistant to interview a former officer of my former company on a late rainy Sunday afternoon. She is a single parent stricken with cancer, yet this NBI agent insisted on forcing a discussion,” he said.

“He has conducted background checks on my personal and professional life going back some 40 years, when I was starting out as a micro entrepreneur. He has done this without my consent or knowledge, like I am some lawbreaker,” he told his colleagues.

   

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