Thursday, September 23, 2021

EXPLAINER: Three floors of CCMC to open for Covid surge. As councilors call P2.8-B building 'very expensive," list project flaws, ask for plans, other information.

CEBU. The unfinished Cebu City Medical Center and DEPW officer-in-charge Engr. Lowell Corminal. (SunStar File/Corminal’s Facebook account)

TO AUGMENT the number of hospital beds for Covid-19 patients amid the third surge of infections in Cebu City, Acting Mayor Michael Rama announced at a press-con Monday, August 2, he had ordered, among others:

(a) the use of Abellana National School rooms as a "mega stay-in" facility"; and

(b) the opening of three floors of the still-uncompleted 10-story Cebu City Medical Center.

Rama has given a group of implementers, who include City Administrator Floro Casas Jr., three days to make that happen.

In three days

At the City Council special session on Supplement Budget One Friday, July 30, Engr. Lowell Corminal, officer-in-charge of the city's Department of Engineering and Public Works (DEPW), said it would take one year and a half or 18 months, presumably from that day, to complete the building.

But then, Acting Mayor Rama is ordering for the operation of only three floors. The completion of the entire building wouldn't be necessary.

What Minority Floor Leader Nestor Archival and Councilor Franklyn Ong of the Association of Barangay Councils were complaining about was that the City Council didn't know when the building would be completed and how much the total cost would be.

List of project flaws

The catalogue of flaws that the two minority BOPK councilors alleged to Engineer Corminal included:

[1] HIGH COST OF P2.8 BILLION. For a building with 10 floors and a roof deck, on 45,000 square meters of space, the price will be P62,200 per square meter.

Councilor Archival alleged that it is higher than the cost of a hotel building, which, he said, is only P40,000 per square meter. He didn't specify the kind of hotel but presumably one that's equivalent to a hospital facility. In reply, Corminal said they made a comparison of costs and hired a consultant.

Allegation and answer did not resolve the issue whether the hospital is overpriced.

The P2.8 billion is for a "deliverable" building, Corminal said, with the "complete architectural, mechanical, and auxiliary works, and elevators but excluding hospital beds and equipment."

[2] PROBABLE LACK OF EXPERTISE of those managing the project who turned out to be "organic" personnel of the City who have no or little experience in handling a huge building project.

Corminal, who said he is over-all manager of the construction, said his experience with hospital construction was the St. Vincent Hospital annex. He didn't mention the size and cost of the St. Vincent project or the experience of his group of managers picked from City Hall personnel. As to the hired consultant, Corminal admitted they are having problems with the expert (whose name he couldn't remember), which are still unresolved.

[3] TOO MANY CONTRACTORS. There are three contractors, one too many for such a building, said Archival, to which Corminal agreed, "True, true."

[4] WHERE COUNCIL IS CLUELESS. Councilor Ong said they had no idea how much the total cost would be, as requests for funds were not made at one time. Corminal threw back the "tagi-tagi" charge, saying they told the City Council in 2019 the total cost but each tranche they asked was always reduced.

Ong said the P499.99 million the Sanggunian last approved has remained unspent. Mayor Edgardo Labella, through City Administrator Casas, cancelled last May 4 the biddings on phase four of the project, involving the interior construction of the upper level, starting from the fourth floor. The reason: The fund was not enough and one billion pesos more was needed. (The figure "P499.99" recalls the number that one sees on a department store price tag, only that here it is in millions of pesos.)

City Hall did not disclose the cancellation but Casas admitted it last July 2, only after former City councilor Mary Ann de los Santos of BOPK had exposed it in a Facebook post.

Promise to Sanggunian

The councilors in the July 30 session asked for plans, program of work and estimates, and terms of reference. Corminal agreed to submit them, saying, "We gave to COA, why shouldn't we give the City Council?"

That was before Barug faction in the Sanggunian, led by Majority Floor Leader Raymond Garcia, succeeded in securing, in an 8-6 vote, the approval of SB One, despite the minority's spirited objection.

SB One already includes an additional one billion pesos for the CCMC building. Corminal's group now might take its time to submit the information since it already got the needed money.


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