No takers for rest of Iloilo project
MANILA, Philippines—Some contractors suddenly don’t want to participate in the second phase of the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) project, no thanks to Manuel Mejorada, Senate President Franklin Drilon said Friday.
Quoting a public works official, Drilon said contractors have opted to stay away from the public bidding for phase two of the P700-million project for fear they would also be summoned to the Senate inquiry.
As a result, completion of the high-end convention center—that will host senior ministerial meetings during next year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit—would be pushed back to June, Drilon said.
This might jeopardize Iloilo’s hosting of the Apec, he said.
“Contractors and other players are getting afraid that their names and businesses will be the next target of lies being concocted, and that their names will be dragged into the issue,” he said in a statement.
Mejorada has filed a plunder complaint against Drilon, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, alleging that the convention center was overpriced.
Appearing at the blue ribbon committee hearing on the project, the former Iloilo provincial administrator admitted he merely relied on Wikipedia and “whispers” of local architects to back up his allegations.
Contrary to his claim, Mejorada said he had no proof of conspiracy among the three officials to jack up the price of the project.
The controversy, however, has struck fear in the hearts of some contractors, said Public Works regional director Edilberto Tayao.
Contractors who took part in the bidding for the first phase did not join the bidding for the second phase, Tayao said.
“Contractors with the capability to complete a project as big as the ICC did not join anymore, and those who remained were hesitant to bid at lower than P200 million, which is above the project’s approved budget of contract of P187 million,” Drilon quoted Tayao as saying.
Because of the delay, the completion of the project is being pushed back to May or June next year, Drilon said, quoting Tayao.
“It is unfortunate that just because of lies, and of spiteful and baseless allegations hurled against the project and its proponents and implementers, Ilonggos could lose the opportunity of hosting the 2015 Apec meetings, along with all the tourism and economic developments prospects that this event brings,” Drilon said.
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, who sought an inquiry into deals between Hilmarc’s Construction Corp., the contractor of the first phase, and local government units, branded Mejorada’s testimony a “dud.”
This sparked a debate among senators on whether to call another hearing on the matter.
The Senate President, who admitted being the project proponent, vowed to answer questions on the project.
“I have nothing to hide, and I will hide nothing. But this sinister agenda of some should not spoil the progress of Ilonggos, who have been trying to achieve their dreams of progress in the past years, made possible by opportunities provided by the present administration,” he said.
The state-of-the-art convention center is being built inside Megaworld Corp.’s P25-billion Iloilo Business Park in Iloilo City. It will rise between Megaworld’s posh hotels, Richmonde Hotel and Marriott Courtyard Hotel.
Megaworld donated a 17,371-square meter lot worth P521 million as site for the ICC.
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