Filinvest, Megawide face the press

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Friday, March 21, 2014


I GOT an invitation to two press conferences Wednesday and Thursday held by firms involved in the bidding for the P17.5-billion Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) expansion project. The tandem of GMR Airports based in Bangalore, India and the Filipino-owned Megawide Construction Corp. and the duo of Changi Airports International (CAI) Consortium of Singapore and Filipino-owned Filinvest Group hope to eventually get the project contract.

I was able to attend one of Filinvest’s separate meetings with the local media (the one with Sun.Star Cebu journalists, of course) but was pressed for time because of other important personal errands to attend to. Because of that, I decided not to attend the Megawide affair. That didn’t fit well with my promise to attend both activities to get a balanced view of issues.

I was actually pleasantly surprised that Filinvest executives led by Eleuterio “Terry” Coronel, executive vice president and chief operating officer, had other things in mind aside from the airport project. Filinvest-CAI actually submitted the second highest bid for the project of P13.999 billion, topped by a whisker by Megawide-GMR’s P14.404 billion. This is the reason Filinvest-CAI has not conceded the battle to Megawide-GMR.

Instead of talking at length about that airport project tug-of-war, Filinvest presented a different intention, which was to improve its relationship with local journalists, particularly those in the print media. With that, Coronel et al proceeded to introduce Filinvest Development Corp. (FDC) and its various projects in Cebu and other parts of the country.

I won’t go into the details of that briefing, but listening to Filinvest executives talk gave me an impression about two things: that investors are bullish about Cebu and that Filinvest is not resting on its laurels.

I was particularly struck by what Tristan Las Marias, the firm’s first vice president for the Visayas and Mindanao, said. Whether Filinvest-CAI will snag the airport contract, Filinvest will stay in Cebu and continue to expand its investments. The Filinvest group, after all, is owned by a family, the Gotianuns, which traces its roots to Cebu.

Filinvest is not only into developing residential areas (with its joint venture project with the Cebu City Government at the South Road Properties a high-profile one), but it is also into the operation of malls, hotels and resorts, banking and even power (through the construction of coal-fired power plants) in Cebu and in other parts of the country.

As for Megawide, I understand that its press con dealt largely with the airport project. Megawide-GMR has been hit with an avalanche of accusations not only from Filinvest-CAI but also from other interested sectors. It has amply addressed those issues in various forums. I read the brochures it prepared and its defense is compelling enough.

The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) has promised to finally award the contract for the airport project this month. I understand that lobbies from various groups, including politicians who are taking the sides of the various investors interested in the project, have made objectivity difficult to get on this matter. But DOTC officials must show full adherence to President Noynoy Aquino’s “Daang Matuwid” mantra.

It would be unfair for Megawide-GMR to be prevented from snagging the contract because of pressures exerted, especially by politicians. But if the accusations, like violation of bidding rules and lack of financial capability, are true, then it should be denied it. In short, the Aquino administration must resolve the matter objectively.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 22, 2014.

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