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Abaya to relocate airport in his congressional turf

It was a bad week for Noynoy Aquino’s Yellow Crowd. Two polls had his ratings dropping two digits, right on the day he was to flail the Supreme Court for illegalizing his presidential pork barrel. His call for mass protest against the SC, by wearing yellow or any memento of his mother Cory’s People Power Revolt, fizzled out. A pocket motorcade by yellow-ribboned cheerers in south Metro Manila, in the wake of typhoon ravage, roundly was jeered. The Press Secretary found it ridiculously necessitous to blame the press for taking too seriously the President’s supposed joking call for street action. Weekend saw the Palace eating humble pie, pleading with the SC to reconsider its 13-0 ruling against P-Noy’s Disbursement Acceleration Program. Now the President is nowhere to be seen, moping somewhere like he twice did for days, when a student heckled him in Naga City and the SC ruling came out.

Perhaps the message has sunk in for P-Noy’s Yellow Crowd: No one is above dilaw.

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It’s now public record. Transport Sec. Joseph Emilio Abaya has rejected San Miguel Corp.’s offer to build— at no cost to government — a new Manila International Airport. His reason: SMC has not formally presented its plan to him. So he is endorsing instead the erection of the facility at the purported best alternative — none other than his electoral district across Manila Bay.

Word from SMC is that it never received any formal invitation to make a presentation. Everything was verbal, so the conglomerate did not know what Abaya wished to see: financials, technicals, designs, features, or all of the above. SMC waited two months since May, when P-Noy endorsed to the transport office the broad strokes it had shown.

Meanwhile, murmurs inside the agency are that Abaya really wants the new airport to be in Sangley Point, in the Cavite congressional district he and his father once represented. Likely, SMC suspected that Abaya would only use its studies to make his eventual choice of Sangley look legitimate, by supposedly having considered alternative sites.

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Abaya had used such ploy before, in announcing three supposed bidders for the MRT-3 maintenance contract in 2012. In truth, his subs were negotiating behind closed doors with only one firm, PH Trams, owned by his compadre Marlo dela Cruz and Arturo Soriano, uncle-in-law of then MRT-3 manager Al Vitangcol.

Abaya’s choice of his congressional district as new airport site is self-serving. It is no different from his official travel last year to Japan for an APEC meeting — with his ten-man delegation dominated by members of his family. He claimed that his parents, brother, and two cousins paid their own way, but was silent on their enjoyment of Philippine embassy facilities, staff, and courtesies.

SMC offers $10 billion to build on reclamation 20 minutes from the present MIA. Sangley is 90 minutes away. It would cost the same $10 billion, but needs a yet uncalculated sum for a rapid transport system. If it is inaccessible for Manilans, more so for travellers and shippers north and south of the metropolis.

Sangley is presently a naval base with full facilities for ship repair and airstrips. If the government wishes to relocate it, a better option is to raise funds by bidding out Sangley for industrial shipping and seaport development.

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Government’s slowness to recompense the financiers of the 1993 reclamation of Manila’s Smokey Mountain is bad for 35 million workers. This is because one of the partners is the Social Security System, the workers’ mandatory mutual provident fund.

The SSS and then-state-owned Philippine National Bank partly had financed the reclamation by the private R-II Builders. A litigious ex-official at first had contested the project’s legality, but the Supreme Court found nothing wrong. Made as far back as 2007, the ruling affirmed the National Housing Authority’s ownership of the reclamation, and the government’s obligation to repay the partners P1.5 billion. The money was to come from the Home Guaranty Corp., the state agency that encourages such real estate development.

Government has a bad habit of duping its contractors, however. To this day, the HGC has been reneging on its debt that has since ballooned to P4.5 billion due to interest. Of the total, the SSS collectible is around P1.5 billion. R-II has pointed this out to the HGC several times in writing. SSS members definitely would benefit from the payment in terms of more funds loanable to them or investible for profit. It would come at a time when the members are criticizing their Malacañang-appointed administrators for increasing mandatory contributions but not their benefits. Compromised as well is the interest of the NHA, the state agency in charge of real estate management, which would get P1 billion of the P3-billion balance.

In 2012 the Commission on Audit too enjoined the HGC to pay up. It also cautioned the present Palace-appointed brass against continuing the profligacy and mismanagement of predecessors. Still no action. What is the HGC waiting for?

Despite numerous laws against red tape, political appointees will always find alibis for foot-dragging. Invariably their ulterior motive is to extract election campaign contributions — at the expense of ordinary citizens.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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