No official winner yet for Cebu airport project

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"NO FINAL decision yet."

Thus, explained by Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, who said that there were no pronouncements of the official winner yet in the bidding for the P17.5-billion Mactan-Cebu International Airport Development project.

Abaya, in an interview after the hearing of the Senate committee on public services, said the special Prequalification, Bids, and Awards Committee (PBAC) is still sorting out issues in relation to the qualification and capacity of bidders.

Abaya said they will seriously consider the advice given to them by Senator Sergio Osmeña III and Sen. Grace Poe in order to make sure that the welfare of Cebuanos will be prioritized.

"There is no decision yet as to which group has won the contract and no recommendation has been made to the DOTC Secretary by PBAC. I leave it to the good wisdom of PBAC," Abaya said.

Abaya said the PBAC will decide the matter in favor of the Cebuanos and the government, and to ensure that its decision will be in accordance with the rules and the law.

Abaya also clarified that the DOTC will only make an official announcement once the award is made.

The PBAC is the one assessing the procurement process, to ensure that proper decisions are made "and from pre-qualification to post-qualification, the PBAC will review the recommendations of the technical working group (TWG) and its consultants. And we require them to submit to DOTC all the proper documents for review." Abaya said.

He said the special recommendation of PBAC will be transmitted to Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) for its own assessment.

The MCIAA board of directors will decide on whether or not to approve such award. Only after these steps are observed can the concession be considered as having been awarded, he added.

When asked about the reported financial instability of GMR, Abaya said, "Malinaw ang rules, lahat po ng issue ay dapat munang i-verify and we will ask them to submit their answers, documents and explanations. They will have to answer questions regarding their financial status accordingly."

Earlier Megawide-GMR Consortium allegedly announced that it will soon launch the P17.5 billion Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), the country's second largest gateway touted as the world's first resort-airport.

Megawide Construction Corp. and Bangalore-based GMR Airports, according to reports, will start building as soon as the DOTC awards the contract for the project.

"Wala pa po nananalo. It is safe to say that they are the bidder but not yet the official winner," Abaya said.

Based on reports, the resort-airport facility will feature 20 aircraft parking stands with aerobridges and 13 aircraft parking stands served by bus transfers and dedicated international and domestic terminals connected by a link bridge for the convenience of passengers making connecting flights.

Check-in counters for international and domestic flights will be increased from 44 to 149 for passenger convenience.

The facility will also feature retail, food and beverage, new airline lounges, as well as in-line automated baggage handling system, adequate parking spaces, and an adjoining airport village mall complex.

Abaya said he will take the challenge raised by Poe, who said during the hearing, that the project will project the kind of leadership that Abaya will be leaving not only to Cebuanos, but to his children as well.

"I will consider it as a challenge to myself and the DOTC. I want to make sure that the Daang Matuwid of President Aquino will be my guiding force in the completion of this project," Abaya said.

When asked about the delays due to the Senate investigation, Abaya answered: "I don't take it against anyone. This is part of democracy and our good senators have the right to scrutinize everything about this project. It is just but part of their job and part of our democratic system in this country."

During a Senate hearing on Tuesday, officials of the Megawide-GMR Group reiterated their commitment to the 25-year project to Senator Osmeña.

"The airport terminals will reflect Cebuano heritage with a resort-like atmosphere conceptualized by international and Cebuano designers," noted Megawide group spokesperson Louie Ferrer.

Ferrer said the GMR Megawide consortium has the credentials, expertise and financial capabilities to take on this prestigious project. He affirmed its capability to carry out the project.

Earlier, Osmeña questioned the financial capability of GMR. The senator said GMR's own audited financial statements reveal the company had suffered operating losses in the past three years.

But Ferrer maintained that the consortium of Megawide Construction Corporation and India's GMR Airports will make sure that they can deliver what they promised.

Poe, during the hearing, said it is important to take note that the Cebuanos also take pride in their design and their culture.

"Let us make sure that this project will really spell a difference. Traffic flow as far as tourism should be one great consideration. We have to give a better impression to the public that we are serving. Cebuanos deserve the best," Poe said.

She said the project must ensure that this will really improve the tourist flow in Cebu and that Cebuanos will take pride of this.

"Secretary Abaya, I hope this project will serve as a reminder to you. This will reflect you, your kids and your family. This will be your legacy if you take this challenge in your heart. I hope this will be your inspiration," Poe told the DOTC chief.

Aside from aesthetic considerations we have to clearly define access also for handicapped and senior citizens," Poe said.

She said that it is also important to give the Senate the terms of reference and the justification of whoever will be pronounced as the official winner in the bidding.

Poe also insisted on the need to clarify that no drastic increase in the fees will be made.

"We also want a written commitment to allow local experts to look into their design and quality. Dapat po may tamang titingin at mag i-inspect kung tama ang mga materyal at disenyo (design) na gagamitin," Poe said.

Andrew Acquaah-Harrison, GMR deputy chief executive officer, said they will make sure Cebuanos will take pride in this project, as he project that this will be the nation's second busiest airport.

Harrison added that the company has cash worth $1.2 billion: "We are in a financially healthy position."

Harrison said the new airport terminals will not only reflect the Cebuano heritage but this will also give visitors and guests the sense of being welcome in Cebu.

"Money is not our primary effort. We want to generate new traffic within the region and we also want to give additional local job to Cebuanos," he said.

Poe said it may sound very promising but the realistic side of the matter is the Senate consideration.

Undersecretary Rene Limcaoco, for his part, said the Parametric Formula in collecting fees which he said will only take effect 3-5 years.

"We will make sure that the welfare of people will be protected. It will be P200 for domestic, P550 for international and an increase of P50 subject to the approval. The aircraft parking fees will be based on inflation every five years including ground handling fees, catering fees and service provider," Limcaoco said during the hearing.

Based on reports, Terminal 1 will be for domestic passengers, while Terminal 2 will be for international passengers.

The terminal design incorporates Cebuano and Filipino iconic items such as outrigger boats or bancas. The canopied structures of the design, which evoke visualizations of sails and waves on the ocean, are evident in the interiors and exteriors of the terminal plan.

In addition, the folded roof structure in the plan draws inspiration from the "A" frame structure of native huts.

The airport will have 149 check-in counters for international and domestic flights, up from the current 44. The terminal will also feature unique retail, food and beverage shops for domestic and international passengers.

The plan includes airline lounges, in-line automated baggage handling system, adequate parking space and an adjoining airport village mall complex for retail and entertainment purposes.

Senator Osmeña said local officials must be given all the proper information and the Governor of Cebu (Hilario Davide II) as well as the board members must also be consulted.

Earlier, Osmeña and Senator Antonio Trillanes IV have scored the DOTC's PBAC for overlooking pertinent information regarding the GMR-Megawide consortium, which submitted the highest bid for the renovation, expansion and 25-year management of the MCIA.

The P17.5-billion project is under the government's public-private partnership (PPP) program.

Osmeña said the PBAC's pre-qualification report on the bid of seven consortia consisted of merely two pages and "is not something that one can describe as the result of due diligence."

"We should look into the shortcomings now. Not after. Kagaya ng departing passenger area sa ngayon. The passenger must climb 3 to 5 steps before you can get to the level of the ticket. And how do you correct that? If we will not scrutinize everything now, it will take decades again." Osmena said.

Science Undersecretary and PBAC head Jose Perpetuo Lotilla explained that a post-qualification review is in the rules precisely to verify the veracity and completeness of the documents submitted by the bidder.

It can be recalled that a belated protest was made by the Filinvest Group on the alleged conflict of interest on the part of the Megawide-GMR Group.

Filinvest-Changi, which offered the next highest bid, called the PBAC's attention to an apparent conflict of interest arising from the partnership of GMR with Malaysia Airports (MAHB) of the First Philippine MAHB consortium. MAHB's managing director sits on the board of directors of GMR's airport affiliates.

A third allegation is that GMR disregarded the conflict of interest rule in the bid process. But Harrison asserted that it has no relevance, no bearing and no merit in the Mactan-Cebu Airport bid. (Camille p. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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