P700 M for NAIA bag conveyor; budget for virus test kits: zero
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - August 7, 2020 - 12:00am

A baggage conveyor belt at Ninoy Aquino International Airport is to be replaced for P700 million. Purpose: smooth operations at the country’s premier gateway, where flights drastically are reduced due to global pandemic restrictions.

The P700 million is for departure baggage handling system at Terminal 1. The international-domestic depot closed mid-March when Luzon was quarantined for COVID-19, then partially reopened April. Departures to the Visayas, Mindanao and world capitals remain scaled down.

In 2015 Terminal 1 underwent renovation for over a billion pesos, records show. Works included the baggage conveyor system. Airport old-timers provided The STAR documents.

Exact amount of the conveyor replacement is P699,819,813.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) board of directors approved the contract on July 29. It was the fourth meeting in four weeks to discuss the replacement. Previous meetings were on July 8, 15 and 21. The board holds regular meetings monthly.

Public bidding was held in October 2019, MIAA general manager Eddie Monreal stated in recommending board consent to award the deal. Details are in Bids and Awards Committee Resolution No. 2019-038-A.

Two of nine board directors objected to the project from the start, insiders said. One was for untimeliness, the other on financial and technical grounds. Not answering calls to his known numbers, Monreal could not be contacted to expound.

The bidding and board approval are to be reviewed, a Malacañang official said, requesting anonymity for lack of publicity authority. The baggage conveyors at NAIA Terminals 2, 3 and 4 regularly are maintained.

Ongoing since 2018 is a P620-million facelift of Terminal 2. Work reportedly is delayed. Two board directors had objected to the necessity and price too. At Terminal 3, part of the ceiling at the food hall collapsed on July 15.

The departure conveyor belt is where luggage are loaded behind check-in counters. Bags and boxes mechanically are moved to the “makeup area” for final security x-ray and destination sorting, onto airline cargo trailers. The system eases and secures the workflow.

Meanwhile, Monreal authorized the other week COVID-19 testing for certain airport and outsourced personnel.

Tests began July 26 after airport management received donated kits. ““Several workers detailed at NAIA can now avail of rapid antibody test,” the official Philippine News Agency reported. MIAA Media Affairs Division head Jess Martinez was quoted as saying “the tests are for employees as well as service provider, LSERV.”

Airport contractors donated 1,800 test kits, sources said. There was no MIAA budget for the expense.

“Since March, MIAA recorded 54 positive [coronavirus] cases of personnel detailed at NAIA. Out of these, 17 have already recovered, and 37 are active cases,” PNA said. “These figures only include MIAA’s permanent personnel and service providers such as administrative support and janitorial services.”

Monreal has been reminding airport workers to observe such precautions as regular hand washing, sanitation and “no-mask, no-entry,” plus physical distancing and temperature checks at entrances and exits, PNA said.

“The provision of free rapid antibody tests [has] started and is not compulsory to the employees,” Martinez told PNA. “If they get a positive test result, they will undergo RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test, which can be found alongside where the rapid antibody test is being done.”

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Education Sec. Leonor Briones reacted to my piece Friday, “Children Will Suffer from School Delays” (https://www.philstar.com/opinion/2020/07/31/2031831/children-will-suffer-school-delays):

“Thank you for your balanced article. Good thing you mentioned the PISA results (Program for International Student Assessment). It was the first time for the Philippines to participate. We have to look ourselves in the mirror. Earlier, DepEd refused to participate in this global assessment system. Thank you too for emphasizing that education must continue. We are already far behind our ASEAN neighbors. Vietnam started in May. Most countries started in July while Singapore started in June. In Singapore the learners are already busy preparing for the November National Achievement Tests, even as we are still debating whether to open classes or not. We welcome your voice as one of those calling for the continuity of education. We pay P32 billion a month for teachers’ salaries and benefits. We continue paying them whether they teach or not.”

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

My book “Exposés: Investigative Reporting for Clean Government” is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Expos%C3%A9s-Investigative-Reporting-Clean-Government-ebook/dp/B00EPX01BG

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Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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