THE ghost of Cagayan de Oro’s P50 million bungled telephone project shows no sign of going away.

On Tuesday, it showed up in the City Council again in the form of an allocation measure seeking payment for co-location charges amounting to P403,200.

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Co-location means attaching Telepono sa Barangay’s antenna with Bayantel's tower so that the 17 hinterland barangays connecting it can have better signal.

That also means the local government will pay Bayantel a monthly rental fee of P15,000 for the use of its equipment. The over P400,000 tab represents the unpaid rent since the agreement was entered into.

City Hall decided to enter into the rental agreement with Bayantel in 2008 because the Telepono sa Barangay contractor, Scantel, put its signal equipment on a wrong place, rendering in effect the telephone lines of the recipient-barangays virtually useless.

The co-location agreement had been opposed from the start by the opposition bloc in the City Council, pointing out that the signal problems resulted from lack of technical study on the project.

They said the rent should be shouldered by Scantel itself and not by taxpayers, noting that the project had yet to be turned over to the City Government.

“Scantel bungled this project; they have to pay for it. This project has not even been turned over to the city, so why must the taxpayers pay the tab for their incompetence?" said Councilor Roger G. Abaday.

But pro-administration Councilor Emmanuel D. Abejuela defended the measure, saying the City Government is left with no choice but to honor its “contractual obligation.”

Councilor Alvin R. Calingin said the rental amount was affordable compared to the advantages of connecting the barangays to the rest of the city.

But Calingin agreed to Councilor Aaron M. Neri’s proposal that a committee-level investigation should be conducted to determine why Scantel didn’t have its own relay station.

Earlier, a government agency found that Scantel neither had the capability nor the permit to undertake the project at all.

In a 2008 report, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) Scantel brazenly carried out the project while at the same time disregarding telecommunications regulations.

Among others, Scantel was found liable for:

* Executing the phone project without securing NTC accreditation as telecom/radio communications supplier;

* Illegal importation of telecommunications equipment;

* Illegal installation of radio communication devices;

The Telepono sa Barangay project is a brainchild of Mayor Vicente Emano that was started in 2003.

A 2006 Commission on Audit report that said the project kicked off even without complying with the necessary technical requirements and without the benefit of a feasibility study. (Nicole J. Managbanag)