Tug-of-war over MCIA project

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Friday, March 14, 2014


THE two giants engaged in a tug-of-war over the P17.5 billion Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) project are also currently engaged in a publicity war.

Both are set to hold separate press conferences to present their sides of the controversy. I also saw the past days full page ads on the issue printed in local newspapers.

The giants are GMR Infrastructure Ltd. of India (its local partner is Megawide Construction Corp.), which won the bid, and Changi International Airport (local partner: Filinvest Development Corp.), which placed a close second.

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Some sectors, including of course Changi-Filinvest, are questioning the capability and ability of GMR-Megawide to implement the project, bringing to the fore GMR’s alleged questionable deals abroad. I purposely steered clear of the controversy because I still have to siphon in all the needed information about the two firms and their partners.

Besides, I do not want to fall into the trap that “commissioners” may have laid down.

The local partners of both GMR and Changi all have links to politicians and other influential personalities who can help their principals snag the multi-billion-peso deal and earn “commissions” from it. I don’t want to be among their influence-peddling instruments.

In my years as a journalist, I have learned that even such a seemingly innocent effort as inviting investors to Cebu can become a money-making venture by lobbyists. Some politicians who have strings to pull make themselves look good by claiming responsibility for bringing in the investors even if they are actually being secretly being given commissions by these investors for facilitating their entry into a certain locality.

In the MCIA project, I could sense a concerted effort to bring down GMR-Megawide, with the latter also aggressively responding to it. The questions raised may be legitimate but the hidden motive is another thing. Who are the influential personalities secretly lobbying for these giants?

I hope that Malacañang and the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) will settle the matter objectively and fairly and not be taken in by the giants’ “commissioner”-cum-lobbyist partners.

***

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada is at it again, delivering another self-serving privilege speech that he probably hopes could salvage his reputation that is damaged by allegations he pocketed millions of pesos from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations.

It is actually the right of Estrada and the other accused, like Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. (interestingly, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile isn’t doing it), to use the Senate “pulpit” to spread their own PDAF gospel. It would be wrong to deprive them of that right.

It is now up to the people to weigh what the senators are saying in their privilege speeches. I am confident they will know which parts of the speeches are true and which parts are half-truths and outright lies.

But I also hope that the Office of the Ombudsman will fast-track the evaluation of the complaint that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)-Department of Justice has filed together with the PDAF scam whistleblowers. The longer the filing of the case in court is delayed, the more that people will think that the big fishes are again allowed to escape the judicial net.

Even the accused themselves seem to be starting to believe that their effort to counter the accusations against them is paying off. I could sense that in the way they seem to be taking lightly the pieces of evidence presented and the witnesses that have surfaced.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 15, 2014.

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