Freeman Cebu Business

MCIA plaints: By and for the losing bidder?

FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel O. Abalos - The Freeman

Last week, November 5, I had the opportunity to use the Mactan Cebu International Airport on my way to Tubod, Lanao del Norte via Ozamis City.  Good timing, in a sense, because it was the first week for GMR-Megawide Consortium to take control of the landside of the airport’s operation.  At least, I can evaluate whether improvements have been made even in such a short time.  So far though, except for the GMR-Megawide’s name conspicuously glued in glass doors and walls as well as the TV screens flashing now and then the planned improvements, nothing much have changed. 

We may ask though, is there much to expect in a 5-day takeover?  Rationally, there is not much.  To some, however, something is expected as the terminal fee was increased from P200.00 to P300.00.  And to a few (who are with vested interests), so much is expected, as such inefficiency will connote incapacity and, thus, unworthy of running the terminal.

To recall, even on the day before it was awarded, Sen. Serge Osmeña questioned the deal before the Supreme Court.   Then, as expected, the Filinvest Group, the second highest bidder, protested the outcome of the bidding.  In a letter they sent on January 2, 2014, they questioned the selection of GMR – Megawide Consortium as the highest project bidder due to a “conflict of interest”.   Then, Filinvest Development Corp., thru its EVP and COO, Mr. Eleuterio Coronel, said that “we are hoping that they will abide by the rules and if they follow the rules, they will recognize the validity of the issues we are raising”. 

Today, before the officers and employees of GMR-Megawide can warm their seats, a new petition is filed by a group of businessmen before the Supreme Court seeking to stop GMR-Megawide from “taking over, rehabilitating and expanding the airport.”  The group, named Business for Progress Movement, led by its president Medardo Deacosta Jr., asked the High Court to issue a temporary restraining order against GMR-Megawide.  In their petition, they alleged that GMR-Megawide “has no financial capacity to undertake the rehabilitation and expansion of the Cebu airport.”

In both protest and petition, the languages were so simple and self-explanatory.  Interestingly, just like such easily understandable protest/petition, our rules are also clearly set out as well.  First and foremost, Rule 5 (Qualification of Bidders) of the implementing rules and regulations of R. A. No. 6957, as amended by R. A. No. 7718, “An act authorizing the financing, construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure projects by the private sector and for other purposes”, clearly stipulated all pre-qualification requirements.  For one, subsection (a) of Sec. 5.4 (the section that establishes pre-qualification requirements) requires the submission of documents that would establish the identity of the bidders and its stockholders and officers.  Moreover, the second paragraph of subsection (c) of Sec. 5.4 states that, “For purposes of the above, joint ventures/consortia shall submit as part of its pre-qualification statement a business plan which shall, among others, identify its members and its contractor(s), if the experience of its contractor(s) are necessary for the determination of the capacity of the joint venture/consortium to undertake the project and the description of the respective roles said members and contractors, if necessary, shall play or undertake in the project.”  Thus, if the submitted documents and information were scrutinized, the identities of the bidders and their partners could have been easily established at the pre-qualification stage.

Going back to the controversy, the very heart of the first complaint was on the “Conflict of Interest” rule.  When we talk about conflict of interest, we certainly refer to the identities of the bidding participants (the bidders’ partners included).  The question is, are these identities known during the prequalification stage?  The answer is an absolute yes.  Then, why just raise a howl later when the sealed bids are opened and the best bid is revealed.  With such fact obtaining and yet unrevealed during the prequalification stage, there could only be two possibilities.  It’s either the Pre-qualification, Bids and Awards Committee is so negligent.  Or, some bidders (like Filinvest) knew of such fact but have kept it closer to its chest for future use (like the complaint they filed now) as leverage to stay relevant project-ownership-wise. 

Yes, we can’t help but agree wholeheartedly with both Mr.  Coronel and Mr. Deacosta.  But is it not also part of the rules that determining of “conflict of interest” and financial incapacity, if both existed, be done during the pre-qualification stage? 

Moreover, it is quite sad that a politician a.k.a. lawmaker and a cause-oriented group have joined the fray.  Well, supposedly, in aid of legislation and, probably, because it is in line with their advocacy, respectively.  The question is, are they really getting involve in this controversy on their own volition as lawmaker or cause-oriented group?  Or are they making some noise now because a bidder prodded them to do so.  Whatever is true, we don’t know and we will never know.  One thing is certain though, politicians/lawmakers and cause-oriented groups will not get involve for nothing.  Customarily, they shall dip their hands into something either for publicity or for something fishy.



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