Obama, Putin advance teams arriving this month

SPYBITS - The Philippine Star

September is here already and while the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation side meetings and dialogues are being held in several major cities all over the Philippines, the major event is the upcoming leaders’ meeting in Manila this November.

According to our sources, presidential advance teams from Russia and the United States will arrive sometime this month, mostly to check on the security measures and arrangements that are being put into place.

It’s still either a yes or no if Xi Jinping will join the Manila APEC meeting, but there’s a very good likelihood the Chinese president will attend.

The two-day leaders’ meeting is scheduled for Nov. 18-19, but various symposiums will already be held in Makati and Manila much earlier. As many as 7,000 people will accompany the 21 state leaders, including various delegates, support staff as well as members of the international media covering this super major event.

A number of diplomats have privately expressed confidence regarding security measures, saying they are reassured by the hands-on approach of PNP Director General Ric Marquez over the preparations. The PNP chief was in charge of the overall security during the visit of Pope Francis in January – a major event that even international security and intelligence personnel described as a “security nightmare” considering that the Pope is a high value target for terrorists.

Anticipating the kind of congestion and traffic the APEC summit will create, security people are urging President Aquino to declare the whole week leading up to the leaders’ summit as a holiday – at least for schools – to help free up the movement of vehicles. 

Those who have nothing to do with the APEC might want to consider leaving Metro Manila or indulge in a home “staycation” for the whole week to avoid the anticipated congestion due to this major event. They say “if you think traffic is bad now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

‘Teka- teka’ responsible for traffic

Motorists are wondering why the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) – the country’s longest toll road – is falling into a state of disrepair and showing signs of wear and tear. Last year, an estimated 10.3 million vehicles passed through the 94-kilometer road, but how come no operation and maintenance work is being conducted to keep SCTEX in good condition?

According to our sources, the operations and maintenance contract for SCTEX has remained in “suspended animation” for over five years now because the Manila North Tollways Corp. and its partner, Egis Projects of France, find their hands tied seven months after the issuance of the Notice of Award to MNTC in February because Toll and Regulatory Board executive director Edmund Reyes Jr. opted to pass the Supplemental Toll Operation Agreement (STOA) to the Office of the President – something which was totally unnecessary according to insiders. 

It can be recalled the O&M contract has gone through the wringer with the President directing the Bases Conversion and Development Authority in November last year to stage a price challenge or competitive bidding for SCTEX’s M&O contract. This was won by MNTC with its offer of a 50-50 revenue sharing proposal plus a premium of P3.5 billion in upfront cash and a P650-million integration of SCTEX with NLEX.

The TRB’s approval would have been enough as the BCDA had already issued its notice of award, with President Aquino and French Prime Minister Francois Hollande witnessing the signing ceremony conducted in Malacañang this February. Unfortunately, the government has yet to award the contract to MNTC – even though it won the price challenge staged by the BCDA and with the P3.5 billion cash already deposited in an escrow account.

MNTC has been waiting to carry out the heavy repair work for improving the SCTEX, including the embankments and side slopes damaged by heavy rains. The same source told us it has even acquired new top-of-the-line equipment meant to address the complaints of motorists regarding the toll road’s outdated systems, and is committed to improve the traffic management system, install closed-circuit television cameras, upgrade signages, and put up a state-of-the-art traffic control center like the one operated by MNTC at the NLEX entry point in Balintawak. So far, it’s been teka-teka for this project which is prolonging the agony of motorists both from Luzon and Metro Manila passing through SCTEX.  

Another controversy brewing in Ayala Alabang

Residents of Ayala Alabang are divided over the proposal to open two gates on its eastern and western walls (San Jose and Champaca streets, respectively), with some against the idea because it will impact the health, safety and security of residents near the proposed gates. Those against the idea are also claiming that the idea is being pushed by Filinvest to raise the value of its adjacent 20-hectare property.

But we are also told that a majority of residents are supportive of the proposal because it could decongest the traffic in Commerce Avenue especially during peak hours when students from Paref-Woodrose, San Beda-Alabang and De La Salle Zobel and others rush for school or are fetched.

Cebu franchisee criminal complaint

A fast food chain franchisee in Cebu, who requested anonymity, has filed an estafa case against the franchisor allegedly for “deliberate misrepresentation of the fast food business franchise model” and “deceitful supply and engineering impositions.” 

The fast food franchisor allegedly kept the franchisee in the dark about the new business models being developed and the last straw was when the franchisor put up a company-owned store right within the vicinity of the franchisee’s store without giving the latter the courtesy of consultation, much less a heads-up about the plan.  However, we just got word that there are already overtures made by the fast food chain management to settle the complaint out of court.

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