A FORMER Cebu governor’s allegation that the Liberal Party will use the P14.4 billion paid for the Mactan airport upgrading project is “too insulting,” President Benigno Aquino III said yesterday.

President Aquino did not name Emilio “Lito” Osmeña, who has announced he is running for governor again in 2016. But it was the latter who, in a press conference, said he would confront President Aquino if the premium does not benefit residents of Cebu.

The GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC) paid the premium last year after it won the 25-year concession to upgrade the existing terminal in Mactan, build a new one and operate both.

Before the President answered the allegation, he said that because of the administration’s push for transparency and the private sector’s confidence, prospective bidders competed for public-private partnership (PPP) projects optimistic that they would see good returns.

“Dito po sa Mactan-Cebu International Airport New Passenger Terminal Building Project, ang premium na ibinigay sa atin: P14.4 billion. Lahat po ng pondong iyan, diretso sa kaban ng bayan, at magagamit sa iba pang proyekto para sa mamamayan. Win-win situation para sa pampubliko at pribadong sektor, di po ba?” Aquino said.

(For this project, the government has received a premium of P14.4 billion. All of it has gone straight to the national coffers and will be used for projects that will benefit the people. Isn’t that a win-win for both the public and private sectors?)

And then he addressed the allegation, without mentioning anyone by name. (The answer is also contained in the official text of the President’s speech posted on www.gov.ph.)

“Alam n’yo bago ako magpatuloy, nabanggit lang sa akin kanina: Meron na ho yatang nagsasabing P14 bilyong ‘yan ay gagamitin ng Liberal Party para sa eleksiyon sa susunod na taon. Alam ho n’yo, talagang nakakainsulto iyon…Magnanakaw na raw ho ‘yung partido namin, tanga pa. Sobra namang insulto ho yata talaga ‘yun,” President Aquino said.

(Before I continue, I was told earlier: Someone has said the P14 billion will be used by the Liberal Party for the elections next year. That’s an insult…According to this person, our party has committed theft and stupidity. That’s too insulting.)

But Aquino also said he would let the insult slide, and expressed hope that whoever raised the question would take the time to read and understand the process, so he would see that the funds go straight to the Treasury and cannot be spent without congressional approval.

Roxas reacts, too

“By that time ho, na nagdesisyon na ang Kongreso siguro doon, matagal nang tapos ang halalan. O itong nagsalitang ito na binalita sa akin, wala kang kausap, kakausapin ko po si Secretary Dinky Soliman na tulungan ka ng Social Welfare, at ihanap ka ng kausap.”

(By the time Congress decides how that money will be spent, the elections will have been long over. Perhaps this person who made this allegation has no one to talk to; I’ll ask Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman to find someone to listen to him.)

In a separate interview after that speech, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, one of the administration’s contenders for the presidential elections in 2016, said the administration officials’ consciences are clean.

“I respect former governor Lito Osmeña but he has the wrong facts,” said Roxas, one of the leaders of the Liberal Party.

Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III, in his speech at the groundbreaking, also gave a message to those who have opposed the project.

“There are those who remain skeptical, those who wish to do this project harm, those who wish for this project not to proceed. Look beyond your own personal interests. Look at what’s good for Cebu,” he said.