No palabra de honor?

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Sunday, March 23, 2014


THE two big consortiums slugging it out to undertake the multibillion-peso modernization program of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport are employing public relations ostensibly to gain publicity mileage and perhaps to condition the public that they are the most qualified to undertake the project.

Last week, I received two invitations: one from our friend Cerwin Eviota, who is handling the publicity and promotions of Filinvest/Changi consortium, to a press briefing last Wednesday at Quest Hotel and the other, from Jingjing Mariño-Farrarons, who is handling the publicity for Megawide/GMR consortium, to a luncheon press conference at the Marriott Hotel last Thursday.

I declined both invitations. Public relations have come into play on this issue and I didn’t want to be influenced by either party.

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Besides, politics and the personal agenda of some influential people are behind this entire brouhaha. Imagine, with all the problems this country is facing, some national politicians who claim “to love” Cebu are suddenly showing interest in the project.

Remember, this is a P17.5-billion project and we can’t discount the possibility that some entrepreneur-minded politicians just want to poke their fingers into it. In Tagalog, “maraming makisawsaw dahil sa laki ng pera.”

But as an outsider looking in, the issue is very simple if the project implementor, in this case the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), will just follow the rule of law. And what is the rule of law here? It’s the bidding process. The issue here is that Filinvest/Changi, which is the second highest bidder, cannot accept defeat. The company is like a child who keeps on crying after his toy is taken away.

The issues raised by Filinvest/Changi against Megawide/GMR, which Sen. Serge Osmeña also raised when he delivered a privilege speech and called for a Senate inquiry, should have been taken up during the pre-qualification bid. DOTC should have thoroughly checked the background of the bidders, including their track record and financial capability, before they were allowed to join the bidding. There is also that issue of conflict of interest. But why only now? If we don’t abide by the results of the bidding, we might as well scrap the procedure in all government projects.

Besides, all bidders were required to sign a memorandum of undertaking that if they lost the bid they would not resort to any legal action so as not to delay the implementation of the project. And Filinvest, as what I gathered, agreed to that covenant. So where is its palabra de honor? Palabra de honor is more than a written document if the party is committed to and abides by it.

Even during ancient times where there were no rules, people valued palabra de honor.

Tribal people would humbly accept defeat during wars because of word of honor. But how come Filinvest, being one of the most respectable and reputable real estate developers in the country, cannot accept defeat?

According to sources, during its presentation to the media, the company bragged about its multi-billion investments in Cebu, claiming it has helped boost the local economy. There is no question about it the company has huge investments here. But in the case of the airport bidding, they lost.

Why did other bidders like Ayala, Aboitiz, Gokongwei, SM Prime Holdings and even the group of Manny Pangilinan accept their defeat? Because these companies have a word of honor. Is it because there are personalities who are egging Filinvest/Changi to contest Megawide/GMR’s bid so it can corner the entire project? What for? Their commission?

As for apprehensions on Megawide/GMR’s financial capability and track record, it’s up to the company to prove that it is qualified and worthy to undertake the project. GMR, an Indian company, is claiming that it developed the New Delhi airport. I have not gone to India so I cannot say it’s one of the best airports in the world.

It’s simple. If the project is awarded to them and if they fail to deliver, we will put their officers at the firing range. Kuyawan sila nga basin magpa-five-six una ning GMR usa sila maka-develop sa airport kay wala kuno ni kwarta. I hope DOTC will come up with a decision based on the rule of law, fairness and equality and not to be swayed by interest groups lobbying for the other party.

(bobby.nalzaro@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 24, 2014.

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