Claiming credit

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

Over the past week, it was amusing to see conflicting claims on who should get credit for some major infrastructure projects. The opposition said many of the projects claimed by the administration were approved during PNoy’s watch.

Actually, for quite a while now, DPWH had been shamelessly claiming credit for Skyway Stage 3 and the last segment of TPLEX among others. The true story is that neither administration had much to do with these private sector projects. The only role of PNoy was to approve the project, and the only role of Duterte was to cut the inaugural ribbon.

There was an important role for DPWH in Stage 3, which was to provide right of way. In this regard, the DPWH under PNoy and under Duterte miserably failed. Ramon Ang of San Miguel got tired of waiting so he took over ROW negotiations and payments.

In some instances, like in Sta. Mesa, the ROW problem was so intense that San Miguel had to reroute the alignment just so they could move faster. The result of the government’s failure to provide ROW is the significant increase in the total cost of the project… from P37.4 billion to P75 billion and rising.

If this was any other company with a CEO who doesn’t think like RSA, the project would still have been waiting for DPWH to resolve ROW problems up to today. RSA was focused on completion.

Today, Stage 3 is relieving EDSA traffic, and since last December, motorists are using it for free.

That’s the other point. One would expect the government to appreciate a private sector effort to help build major infrastructure by allowing San Miguel to start recovering costs that now include, ROW costs, maintenance and operations.

But that’s not how power mad bureaucrats think. They only want to claim credit for project completion, but take their time in compensating the company for costs incurred. The excuse is that not all the exits are completed.

Administrations should be thankful there are PPP projects or the government will not be able to show much accomplishments in infrastructure building. It seems their attitude is that anyone foolish enough to think the government will perform its obligations deserves to be punished. Often, government contracts are not worth the paper they are printed on. Look what happened to the water companies.

It is obvious that Stage 3 is already saving the economy billions of pesos in terms of lost time stuck in EDSA traffic. Farm produce can also get to markets in southern Metro Manila faster and cheaper.

The main point to remember is that Stage 3 would not have been built if it was left to DPWH.

There were other PPP projects that overlap the Aquino and Duterte administrations: CALAX, PITX, MRT 7, the P30 billion Cebu to Cordova bridge, and  the Mactan Terminal 2 among the more important ones.

In all of these projects, the government did little more than provide endless red tape before approving the projects.

Give credit where it is due: the private sector entities that have braved the government’s PPP program have delivered. More big-ticket projects could be done if the government treated the early investors fairly.

Gary Olivar

I was shocked to learn that a very old friend from my early college days died suddenly from heart failure last Tuesday morning. Gary Olivar, an economist and corporate finance man, was also economic spokesman of the former PGMA.

I first met Gary in college teach-ins in those turbulent days of the late ‘60s. Gary was still in UP High when he started joining us in the nationalist movement at UP Diliman. Gary stayed on long enough with the movement to be detained at Crame when martial law was declared.

The next time I bumped into Gary decades later was at Bayantel where he was CFO. We were both members of the Lopez Group Management Committee. He took a leave to join the presidential campaign of the late Raul Roco, a man we both admired and supported.

But the post martial law Gary was so different from the Gary of UP Diliman. He came back with an MBA from Harvard and with experience from years spent on Wall Street. He became an American citizen and was even a registered Republican. One other big change was his conversion to Roman Catholicism. He was more Catholic than most people born into it like myself.

That was Gary. He always had a lot of passion and commitment for everything he decided was worth believing in. He lost his faith in socialism after seeing what happened to the movement he committed his youth to.

I guess Gary saw that the best way to uplift our people out of poverty is to let the free market forces work with the least intervention from corrupt bureaucrats. We, old comrades, shared this view. Not surprisingly, we found ourselves in a group called Foundation for Economic Freedom.

But Gary and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things... from the Reproductive Health Law to PGMA, Duterte, and federalism. Nevertheless, we remained friends. We enjoyed exchanging oftentimes acerbic messages in our FEF Viber group. We were doing that hours before he died.

Rodel Rodis posted this excerpt from the manifesto written by Gary to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the First Quarter Storm. It describes our generation well.

“In the conceit of our youth, we believed we could repair the broken bones of a people long despoiled and fulfill a dream of human freedom, of national sovereignty, of equitable progress for every Filipino.”

Gary will be missed by those of us who got to know him and had the privilege of being his friend. Gary… give my regards to Nelson Navarro and Lorna Verano Yap. And of course, to Jerry Barican. Set up Heaven’s version of our Sunday afternoon coffee group with them.

My condolences to his family. I am sure he is on the expressway to Heaven and enjoying the rewards of someone who served the Lord well.



Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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