THE CONTRACT for the P1.328 billion flood control project was awarded to A.M. Oreta & Co. Inc. April 15, 2021, notice to proceed was issued April 20 and the official project starting date was April 27, both in the same year 2021. The project, given 570 calendar days, was to be completed November 17, 2022.
A.M. Oreta, with a Makati City address, is listed as having been founded in 1946 by Antolin M. Areta Sr., a civil engineer, and has been engaged in general contracting and general engineering. It says it has “over 460 projects to date.”
‘ZERO PERFORMANCE.’ A SunStar story of August 20, 2023 said Councilor Jerry Guardo, chairman of the committee on infrastructure, in one of his privilege speeches at the Cebu City Council deplored A.M. Oreta’s “zero performance,” citing the 2022 COA audit report. The project, Guardo said, was to rehabilitate the existing drainage system, for 80 percent in the south district and the rest in the north district of the city.
A COA prophecy from its audit report led off my Explainer of August 17, 2023: “With this kind of attitude that this contractor has manifested, there is no doubt that these flood-control projects will be going down the drain.”
ZERO EXPLANATION. A.M. Oreta, it would seem, hasn’t been diligent not only in the project itself but also in explaining why. Summoned to an executive session, it didn’t attend an August 16 meeting, having asked for a reschedule. Councilor Guardo told me at the time that it was reset to September 6, which didn’t happen and moved to October 18. On that day, A.M. Oreta sent a representative, but the proxy didn’t carry a letter of authorization and, worse, didn’t have the basic information, such as the date when A.M. Oreta submitted the documents it claimed it had already submitted to City Hall. So, the new session will be on December 15.
I told Councilor Guardo Tuesday, November 28: “You’re being given the runaround. Three scheduled meetings for an explanation since August: All failed. Now you’re having this December meeting.” His reply: “Yes, Atty.”
NOT ENTIRELY CLUELESS. Headline of the August 20 SunStar story by Cherry Ann T. Lim and Arkeen M. Larisma about the ill-fated flood-control project said the City had been “clueless on its progress.”
Not totally, at least not after A.M. Oreta, through one Melvin B. Caidet, wrote on August 14 to the City Council when it asked for its first resetting, from August 16 to September 6. A.M. Oreta let the cat out of the bag in that letter. Not our fault, it said, without however presenting specifics and their evidence.
A.M. ORETA BLAMED CITY. The contractor, through Caidet, virtually blamed the City Government for the delay,” Caidet wrote there are “several pending issues and matters still to be addressed by the City to enable us to complete our tasks” under the contract.
The City, the letter alleged, has not given the company certain information, which has “hindered” their “progress.”
One Aladin Bautista, A.M. Oreta’s representative to the October 18 session, who claimed they had already submitted documents to the City, was asked by Vice Mayor and Presiding Officer Raymon Alvin Garcia: “…For all we know, you submitted it early but then there was no action coming from the City?” Which led to Bautista’s answer: “Yes, sir.”
WHO HANDLED PROJECT FOR CITY? Have A.M. Oreta and City Hall not been talking with each other? They have. A.M. Oreta’s Caidet said there was an exchange of “several communications” between the City and the contractor but they only gave rise to “further issues that we are trying to resolve.”
Related story: Seares: Why Rama's P1.328B flood-control project hasn't started despite 'excessive' cash advance. Contractor A.M. Oreta resets face-off with City Council, in effect blames City Government for construction delay.
The City Council may want to know from the office of the mayor, as to who has been communicating with A.M. Oreta. What things have the City failed to do that, A.M. Oreta alleged, caused the delay?
An executive session without the project manager/supervisor of the City -- who has directly dealt with A.M. Oreta -- won’t join the issues and identify the cause or causes. The City Council, with its sometimes superficial probing of a complicated issue, may not solve the puzzle, much more remove by its lone self the obstructions allegedly caused by the City and the contractor talked about in its August letter.
BAUTISTA COULDN’T GIVE DATE. A.M. Oreta’s rep at the October 18 session, Aladin Bautista, was told bluntly by Minority Floor-leader Nestor Archival: “That’s the problem. You received the P200 million already….and you have not actually given us the information.”
Councilor Dondon Hontiveros pressed: “Sorry sir, when did you submit (them)?” Aladin Bautista couldn’t look at his figurative lamp quickly enough -- barely saying, “As I have said, I don’t have…” -- before the presiding officer cut him off for another speaker and to give him the chance to get the timeline, which Archival routinely demands from resource persons.
AND AUTHORIZATION. It was after Bautista and the councilors ended the talk about a timeline in submission of documents that Councilor Archival questioned the rep’s credentials.
Bautista said he was a consultant of A.M. Oreta but couldn’t give, when asked, an authorization to speak about the project from the contractor. Archival wanted that and Bautista said he’d bring that along (“no problem”) on December 15. Bautista came to the meeting, representing the contractor of a P1.32 billion project, unprepared and unable to anticipate what he’d be asked for and about and not deferential enough to the councilors. (“Are you finished?” Bautista asked, not a friendly question to Archival after the councilor said a mouthful.)