ROUNDTABLE

Business prods govt on unsolicited proposals

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The government shouldn’t insist on spearheading infrastructure development at the expense of unsolicited proposals, a businessman behind two long-delayed projects said.

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“Unsolicited proposal is provided by law. You cannot just say ‘we are not interested in that, we’ll do ODA (official development assistance) or we’ll do solicited’,” Penson & Co. President and CEO Ricardo Penson said in a roundtable discussion with The Manila Times on Monday.

“You know every government would always harp about following the rule of law. They should live up to what they say,” he added.

Penson has been lobbying for two infrastructure projects – the proposed North Luzon East Expressway (NLEEx) and the expansion of the Clark International Airport – that he says his firm secured during the Arroyo administration.

He blames the succeeding Aquino government of sitting on final approvals and says the current Duterte administration is also going slow on project rollouts despite its “Build Build Build” ambitions.

Penson said that his company, Ausphil Tollways Corp., was issued a notice of award in 2007 for the NLEEx. It was put on the backburner, however, after the Aquino government took power in 2010 and called for a review of all approved projects.

Earlier this year, Penson said the project would now move forward. He told The Manila Times that a March groundbreaking had in fact been scheduled but several regulatory requirements still needed to be met.

The Clark airport expansion proposal, meanwhile, suffered the same fate as the NLEEx and now Penson faces competition from larger developers such as Megawide and JG Summit, which have also submitted their own unsolicited proposals.

Penson said he would contest an award to a rival firm as the Philco Aero Group — one of his ventures — had been granted rights to the project.

Both Megawide and JG Summit, he also claimed, had withdrawn their offers given the government’s bias against unsolicited deals in favor of constructing the projects itself using ODA funds.

“They just found a key word, ODA, now everything is ODA. It doesn’t make sense … the reason we have unsolicited proposal is because sometimes Filipinos know better than the foreign consultants and let’s give a chance—the opportunity for Filipinos to develop our own infrastructure,” Penson said.

“ODA should only be used when the profitability of the project is not very high but the service to the republic or to the people is high—that’s when ODA comes in,” he added.

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