PCSO gave bishop swanky 4x4 SUV
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc () - June 20, 2011 - 12:00am

The figures from the Philippine Ports Authority are confusing. It says that the French-made roll on-roll off modular-steel ports, contracted in 2009, are overpriced at P83 million apiece. More so at P143 million, if added are the 12-percent VAT and 3-percent compounded interest over 15 years from a French loan. The PPA supposedly can build the RO-RO ports for only P50 million per unit.

But it turns out that the lower amount is based on local steel prices, not the costlier special alloy that the 145-year-old French state firm Eiffel uses to last at least 80 years. Also, the P50 million did not input the VAT and higher loan interest, 8-10 percent, if from local banks. No wonder Economic Secretary Cayetano Paderanga found “suspicious” the method the PPA used in comparing the French and local costs.

Other baffling figures surface from three PPA port works. One, the construction of the Pulupandan port, Negros Occidental, began in 2001 for P333 million. It is a passenger-cargo-PPA complex, using not only RO-RO but also the outdated, slow and costly LO-LO (load on-load off). There’s a catch. The contract price was renegotiated eight times, and the completion date ten times. The final cost, by the time the port was finished October 2006 instead of September 2003, was P416 million. The French contract, under the Official Development Assistance Law, is forbidden from escalation clauses. The PPA brags that one of the local constructors had included a steel RO-RO for only P90 million. From records, the firm was able to quote so low because the PPA granted in exchange a discounted lease over 100 hectares of prime land nearby.

Two, the PPA is modernizing the Port of Cagayan de Oro for P400 million. This includes P250 million for a new passenger terminal, P70 million for a paved extension, and P50 million for three RO-RO berths. The PPA uses the last item as proof that it can build RO-RO ports for only P50 million. But that amount is not for complete RO-RO piers, only berths beside existing ones, onto which ships can be tied.

Three, the PPA is soliciting bids to rehabilitate the Tacloban Port, budgeted at P397 million. Unstated is how much the effective cost would be by the time the PPA starts paying off the VAT and loans after 720 days. But expect cost escalations and completion delays, the norm in PPA contracts. The bidding has been limited to Philippine constructors. Is the PPA afraid that the French, and other foreign firms that bid but lost in the 2009 RO-RO project, might submit better prices?

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Up for reforming are the Bureaus of Customs, of Prisons, and other rotten agencies. To fill up key positions, it would help to check out the Civil Service Commission’s roster of awardees for superb work. For years the CSC has been awarding government employees for ethical standards and outstanding service. Some Dangal ng Bayan, Presidential Lingkod Bayan, and Pag-Asa winners are under-utilized or have left the service to keep noses clean.

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In a recent radio interview Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos expressed his hatred of President Noynoy Aquino: “He is not really worthy to be a President. That job is not for him. The earlier he is out of his post, the better for the Philippines.”

The Catholic prelate of Butuan said he is in touch with plotters to oust Aquino. In February 2008 Bishop Pueblos called for the ouster too of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo. He resented the latter’s frequent letters against then-President Gloria Arroyo, exposed in a series of anomalous deals with China. He also called Archbishop Oscar Cruz, one-time CBCP head and critic of Arroyo’s abetting of illegal gambling, as “a bad influence.”

Like opposition congressmen now led by Arroyo, Bishop Pueblos in the radio interview scored Aquino for posting allies, classmates, and shooting buddies in the government. In 2005 he ranted against investigators of Arroyo’s rigging of the 2004 presidential election, as alleged in the “Hello Garci” tape.

In mid-2009 the prelate appears to have received a swanky four-wheel-drive vehicle from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. The PCSO is under the Office of the President — at that time Arroyo. A Resolution No. 783, series of 2009, states:

“Resolved, that the Board of Directors of PCSO approve, as it hereby approves, pursuant to Board Resolution No. 328 series of 2009 Re: Grant of one (1) unit 4x4 service vehicle to the Diocese of Butuan c/o Bishop Juan de Dios M. Pueblos, in the amount of One Million Seven Hundred Four Thousand One Hundred Forty Seven Pesos and 90/100 (P1,704,147.90), for the use of the diocese in its various community and health programs in Caraga, especially the poor in the far flung areas in need of health and medical services, charged to the applicable item in the budget, subject to the availability of funds, and applicable accounting and auditing laws, rules and regulations. Approved at the regular meeting of the Board of Directors of PCSO on 5 June 2009, at Quezon City, Philippines.”

The resolution was signed by then-chairman Sergio Valencia, and directors Manuel Morato, Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc V, and Ma. Fatima Valdes.

Was any other Catholic or non-Catholic bishop favored with PCSO’s generosity?

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

E-mail: jariusbondoc@workmail.com

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