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Biz Buzz: ‘Flimsy technicality’

/ 04:56 AM June 16, 2014

An emergency meeting will be convened in Malacañang—as early as Monday, we hear—to discuss the much-ballyhooed bidding for the right to build the 47-kilometer Cavite-Laguna Expressway (Calax) tollroad project using the public-private-partnership (PPP) framework.

This was after the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)’s disqualification of San Miguel Corp., which turned out to have submitted the most aggressive bid premium of P20.105 billion, or P8.45 billion higher than the next-highest bidder, put into question the integrity of the process.

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SMC was thrown out of the ballgame due to a technical deficiency in its offer showing that the ANZ Bank-issued bid security, a financial bond that protects the government, will expire on Nov. 25, or short of the 180-day requirement by four days.

But as ANZ had already clarified the matter with the government, SMC officials believed that the problem was not with ANZ, but with how eager some parties wanted it out of the game.

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What happened last Friday was “really unfortunate,” said Jose Mari Lacson, head of research at Campos Lanuza & Co., who believes the DPWH should have allowed SMC to participate with some penalty. “But the disqualification now puts the agency and the PPP program in a bind. By sticking to their guns the results plus other recent decisions imply the government favors certain PPP bidders.”

If they consider the reported significant premium offered by SMC and reverse or rebid the Calax, however, Lacson said this would also be read as favoring one bidder over the others. “Regardless of whether preference does exist, the biggest loser is really the winning bidder. Whoever wins will be vulnerable to legal challenge exposing PPP protects to some regularity risk. It’s like basketball. If officiating is bad, the game will be subject to protests. The victors cannot claim an untainted victory and the results will always be at risk of being reversed,” he said.

“It seems to be a very flimsy technicality and SMC is known for bidding high,” said Joseph Roxas, president of Eagle Equities Inc., noting that the government would have obtained the highest bid with San Miguel.

The unceremonious disqualification is seen opening up this tollroad project to delays, given that SMC, expected to play the underdog card to the hilt, has braced itself for a long legal battle.–Doris C. Dumlao

Speaking of which…

As the dust settled following the drama at Friday’s bid opening for the Calax project and as questions began to mount on what really happened (or better yet, what happens next) one losing group is just taking things in stride.

We are talking about Manuel V. Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific Tollways, whose MPCALA Holdings was the first to call for the outright disqualification of San Miguel Corp. over a deficient bid security, but was itself unsuccessful in winning the project.

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MPCALA’s P11.33-billion offer was about 3-percent lower than the P11.659 billion offered by the Ayala-Aboitiz group’s Team Orion tandem.

But for Metro Pacific Tollways president Ramoncito Fernandez, this only means the company goes on to fight another day.

After all, Pangilinan said last week that the group would take a “pause” from bidding for public-private partnership (PPP) deals if it won Calax.

It seems that pause would no longer be necessary for Metro Pacific, which has already won the automated fare collection system PPP with Ayala Corp. Both companies are also set to bag the P65-billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 PPP deal.

Fernandez said their loss Friday meant they could look toward even bigger projects, like the P152-billion Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike, which could be up for bidding later this year.–Miguel R. Camus

Dual citizenship?

While some businessmen and politicians continue to point out the merits of allowing foreigners to buy land and own more than 40 percent of local companies, one blue-chip law firm has devised a unique way to get the same result without all the legal hassles: “dual citizenship” for foreign companies.

Who needs to amend the Constitution when you have high-priced lawyers?

This is how the firm has pulled it off: A senior partner acts as the representative of foreign company X. Meanwhile, an entity with the same name as foreign company X—with the same address as the law firm, of course—buys majority ownership in a number of local companies. This entity is declared as “Filipino.” Things become trickier when one considers that the local companies that are owned by this Fil-foreign entity all own land.

A quick check with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Trade and Industry will reveal, however, that no Philippine company is registered using the name of company X. Thanks to the law firm, it is clear that this asset-rich company has achieved dual citizenship.

Incidentally, the senior partner of the law firm is the corporate secretary of all the purchased local companies, while another senior partner is a director and minority shareholder. In case the entire firm loses its license to practice law for this debacle, at least they can take some consolation in the fact that they helped bring foreign investments into the country, right?–Daxim L. Lucas

Trapeze lessons, anyone?

A school of a different kind is scheduled to open next month at the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City and may just be what adrenaline junkies are waiting for.

Called Flying Trapeze Philippines, the school on 34th Street corner 9th Avenue is the first and only flying trapeze school in the Philippines and only one of a handful in Asia. Going on the flying trapeze is said to be ideal for those looking to try out another form of exercise.

A trapeze is defined as a short horizontal bar hung by ropes or metal straps from a support and is commonly found in circus performances. The flying trapeze, on the other hand, refers to the trapeze act where a performer or “flyer” grabs the trapeze bar and jumps off a pedestal board or high platform. It was invented in the mid-19th century in France by Jules Leotard, in whose honor the traditional flier’s costume was named.

According to Will Hsu, who has been flying on the trapeze since he was 7 years old and long dreamed to put up a school, the flying trapeze can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels, shapes and sizes. It allows you to tone your upper body and core muscles in a fun and challenging environment.

“Flying Trapeze Philippines’ strives to make the sport of flying trapeze available to anyone seeking an alternative fitness regimen, inspiration, artistry and a few hours of fun. Our mission is to excite, entertain and challenge students of all ages (6 and above), shapes and sizes to live life to the fullest within a safe and trusted environment,” Hsu says.–Tina Arceo-Dumlao

Credit Suisse meets Apl.de.ap

They may be keeping a low profile when operating in the Philippines, but Credit Suisse is big on promoting Filipino talent and philanthropy overseas.

This was especially evident recently when the global investment banking giant brought Filipino-American musician, artist and philanthropist Apl.de.ap of the Grammy Award-winning group The Black Eyed Peas to Singapore recently to share his experience in philanthropy.

Speaking before Credit Suisse’s Breakfast Club forum, Apl.de.ap discussed his life journey and his philanthropic experience. Explaining his motivation for setting up the Apl Foundation, he said that he was adopted as a kid from the Philippines and given the opportunity for a better education and to become part of the Black Eyed Peas.

To date, Apl Foundation has built 14 classrooms, with a project ongoing in Zamboanga building a 20-classroom public school, and another four classrooms to be built after this.

He is also moving to Super Typhoon Yolanda-ravaged Tacloban.

Asked what his biggest worry was, the artist conceded that concerns about the sustainability of his philanthropic works kept him up at night (thus revealing that he is not just any wide-eyed do gooder).

Naturally, Apl.de.ap was hosted at the forum by fellow Filipino Lito Camacho, who is Credit Suisse’s vice chair for the Asia-Pacific and a director of the bank’s SymAsia Foundation.–Daxim L. Lucas

E-mail us at [email protected] Get business alerts and a preview of Biz Buzz the evening before it comes out. Text ON INQ BUSINESS to 4467 (P2.50/alert).

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TAGS: Apl.de.ap, bidding, Calax tollroad, Credit Suisse, Flying Trapeze Philippines, foreign ownership, Metro Pacific, philanthropy, San Miguel Corp., schools
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