• Deferment of P3-B Northern Mindanao road project eyed

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    Lawmakers have called for the deferment of the P3-billion Surigao-Davao-Surigao (Lipata)-Agusan del Norte road maintenance and repair project because of questions raised on its bidding process.

    Representatives Jose Christopher Belmonte and Winnie Castelo of Quezon City, Jim Hataman-Salliman of Basilan and Catherine Barcelona-Reyes of Camarines Norte raised the issue in House Resolution No. 2437, which questioned the Department of Public Works and Highways Bids and Award Committee’s (DPWH-BAC) decision to grant the government contract to Hebei-Equiparco Corporation despite submitting a financial bid that was 20 percent higher than the ceiling of P2.5 billion.

    The P3-billion project was for the repair of the 123.5-kilometer road in the Caraga region, which is funded from a loan package from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency.

    The DPWH-BAC is chaired by DPWH Undersecretary Alfredo Tolentino, a native of Surigao province in the Caraga region.

    The lawmakers questioned the disqualification of two other construction firms for minor technicalities, which allegedly cleared the path for Hebei-Equiparco to bag the contract since it was the lone qualified bidder.

    “I will ask the DPWH to suspend the implementation of these contracts by not issuing the notice to proceed, pending the conduct of the investigation,” Castelo said.

    “Equiparco Corporation virtually cornered most of the major DPWH and other infrastructure projects in Mindanao, especially Northern Mindanao. This investigation is an opportunity for the DPWH to answer the complaints,” Belmonte pointed out.

    “The DPWH would be asked to submit all documents related to the controversial road project and list of projects cornered by Hebei-Equiparco Corporation. Representatives of the disqualified international bidders will also be required appear before the joint committee [of Good Government/Public Accountability and Public Works]to shed light on the circumstance of their disqualification,” Belmonte added.

    Hataman-Salliman, for his part, noted the P3 billion for the road repair could have gone a long way, especially in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that direly needs infrastructure investment.

    “Had that amount been allocated to us, it would have provided the needed growth spurt in Muslim Mindanao,” he added.

    The proposed 2016 DPWH budget is P401.14 billion, a 32- percent increase from its 2015 budget of P303.2 billion.

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