Trader asks Ombud to probe $2.2M airport deal-A A +A
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
CEBU CITY -- A businessman asked the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas on Tuesday to investigate the Mactan airport board, saying there were lapses in the purchase of equipment worth US$2.2 million.
Crisologo Saavedra also asked for the officials to be preventively suspended, while the ombudsman checks the "midnight contract" between the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
He questioned the alleged lack of a public bidding for the MCIAA’s purchase of two Instrument Landing Systems (ISL) and distance measurement equipment.
The ISL is similar to the equipment installed in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last July, after equipment problems and poor visibility forced the airport management to divert several flights.
Named respondents to the complaint were Danilo Francia, MCIAA general manager; Romeo Bersonda, assistant general manager; and MCIAA board members Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, outgoing private sector representatives Valeriano “Bobit” Avila, Renato Osmeña and Winglip Chang; and heavy equipment dealer Philcox Philippines Inc.
Francia, in an interview, denied the MCIAA board violated the Procurement Reform Act in failing to hold a public bidding for the landing system.
He explained there was no bidding in the Philippines because they tapped the ICAO, a United Nations agency that sets standards for international aviation.
The outgoing airport manager said the original allocation approved by the board for the ILS was P198 million, but because of ICAO’s role, they got the equipment itself for only P53 million.
“The good thing about ICAO is that it is the entity that sets international airport standards. So there’s no question about its capability,” Francia said.
He added the project was no midnight deal, because its purchase was budgeted in the years 2008 and 2009. Airlines have been complaining about the existing ILS before he came to Mactan in 2006, Francia said.
“In fact it took so long (to implement ILS) because the MCIAA management and board were so meticulous in the process,” Francia said.
Saavedra, interviewed separately, said he obtained the contract entered into by MCIAA and ICAO from a “confidential source” inside the airport. (Sun.Star Cebu could not obtain an official copy of the contract as of Tuesday night.)
Saavedra said the contract awarded by the MCIAA to ICAO violated Republic Act 9184 because this did not go through a competitive bidding.
He said the MCIAA could also be held liable for technical malversation for transferring to ICAO about US$2.2 million from the airport’s corporate funds.
Since 2002, Saavedra has filed several complaints over Mactan airport transactions. One of his complaints concerned a P44-million runway rejuvenation project that he said his company won, but was never awarded.
He is now a private consultant of Cebu Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr.
While Saavedra filed his complaint, a Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) official said the public can expect “full transparency” of all MCIAA transactions once the new board starts to function on Sept. 30.
DOTC Undersecretary Aristotle Batuhan said as a member of the MCIAA board, representing Secretary Jose de Jesus, he will propose for an MCIAA website where all transactions can be made public.
Batuhan also said he expects the MCIAA board members from the different government offices and the newly-appointed private sector representatives to support and appoint Cebu City Planning and Development Coordinator Paul Villarete as airport general manager.
In a letter, President Benigno Aquino III told the board of his “desire” to let Villarete take over as MCIAA manager.
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez Jr., in separate interviews Tuesday, vouched for Villarete’s qualifications.
Governor Garcia, in a recent interview, said the next general manager will have to meet the qualifications set by the MCIAA board. She declined to comment on the endorsement of Villarete.
Rama, however, said: “I have no doubt about Paul. Precisely, I endorsed him for the position. If you’re talking about removing politics and making competence the issue, we don’t have to argue about (his) competence.”
“MCIAA has the final say. We don’t have to argue about that,” he added. (GMD/EOB/JGA/PDF of Sun.Star Cebu)