Last of two parts
IN time for the Senate hearing on the alleged overpricing of the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC), the local politicians in Iloilo City issued a statement of support for the controversial project that is marred with apparent anomalies. In effect, their statement was also in support of beleaguered Senate President Franklin Drilon, the project proponent who is Iloilo’s “godfather” or patron of government public infrastructure projects.
The Iloilo statement of support published in national newspapers ,however did not address the issue of the obscene overpricing of the P700 million convention center. What it merely said is the ICC was a “vital project which will be used as the primary venue of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meetings.” It added that hosting the APEC meetings has brought “great joy and pride” to Iloilo.
As Senate President, Drilon himself pointed out during the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing last Thursday, the real issue is on the alleged overpricing of the ICC. Yet the statement issued by Iloilo’s discredited politicians merely said: “The issues on the alleged anomalies and over-costing (sic) of the Iloilo Convention Center have been mainly used as part of the political chicanery and mudslinging by bickering political groups.”
What is also noticeable in the statement of support for the ICC and Senator Drilon is that Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr., the first cousin of Senator Miriam Defensor – Santiago, is not a signatory to it. It seems as if Iloilo City is not a part of the province of Iloilo and that the ICC is not located in Iloilo province, but in the separate kingdom of property developer MegaWorld that donated the land for the convention center.
Governor Defensor belongs to the Liberal Party and therefore is a political ally of Senator Drilon, Congressman Jerry Treñas and Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog of Iloilo City. The Governor of Iloilo may have already distanced himself from the political maelstrom that has hit the high-profile pet project of Senator Drilon in the provincial capital.
Dubious donation of MegaWorld
The crux of the alleged overprice on the ICC is the dubious donation by MegaWorld Corporation of the 1.7 hectares of land as the site of the ICC. The convention center being built inside the Iloilo Business Park that MegaWorld is developing at a rather slow pace.
The apparent anomaly, which became the source of the alleged overprice, is the dubious donation by MegaWorld that came with the architectural and engineering designs of the convention center. Upon questioning by Senator Sergio Osmeña 3rd, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. said the donation of the property came with the designs of the ICC by W. V Coscuella & Associates. “The donation came with the plan,” Secretary Jimenez admitted.
Thus, the architectural and engineering designs were imposed upon the Philippine government by property developer MegaWorld in spite of the fact the latter will be the real beneficiary of the P700 million convention center that is being paid for with public funds. The actual cost of the 1.7 hectare land donated by MegaWorld is only P28.3 million based on its acquisition cost of P1.2 billion for the 72 hectares of the old Iloilo Airport.
The problem on the side of the national government is its amazing incompetence and/or outrageous corruption. Secretary Jimenez proved his sheer stupidity when he defended his department’s decision to keep the original roof deck design of the ICC that was done by W.V. Coscuella & Associates. The DoT chief said the “roof deck design was maintained because he thought that the architect wanted to have an option for expansion.” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 14 Nov. 2014)
When the Tourism secretary read the provision of the donation during the Senate hearing, the condition was for the “donee” (DoT) to use the “proposed conceptual design of the convention center to ensure the consistency with the overall design of the surrounding area.” But, it later turned out that MegaWorld did not just want their conceptual plan followed. They want their own architectural and engineering designs preserved and implemented, too.
Overdesign caused overprice
It was Senator Aquilino Pimentel 3rd who pointed out that the overdesign of the convention center caused the project cost to go exceedingly up. There is really no need for the design of the structure to have a provision for two more floors. It just increased the project cost with the additional expense for the foundation and the roof deck.
The Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) built 40 years ago in the mid-1970s did not even have such design. Why should the ICC that is located only in a regional center like Iloilo City, whose convention center would not be of much use for international conferences after 2015 APEC, be made so special? Preference would be more for Cebu or Davao.
Senator Pimentel further pointed out that the cost of the ICC project could have been further reduced (after DPWH did some value engineering) by taking out the design for two additional floors and changing the plans for the roof deck. True enough, the cost of piling alone for the superstructure amounted to a whopping P100 Million!
The additional two floors of the convention center would most likely be never used since there will be no demand for them. Senator Pimentel is correct that it will be seen in the future as overdesign or overprice if the two floors were not built. However, the facade of the ICC would look different once the two floors are constructed on top of it!
Drilon’s mistake or scam?
Senator Drilon admitted that it was he who broached the idea of the convention center to MegaWorld CEO Andrew Tan to be built inside the Iloilo Business Park. He also said that he who requested for funding of the Iloilo Convention Center from the Department of Budget & Management (DBM) by writing a letter to President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd, but he stayed away from the bidding of the DPWH. It seems to be a good idea.
However, with the turn of events the P700 Million ICC could have been built at half the cost if it was constructed outside the MegaWorld Iloilo Business Park. The cost of land could have been P100 Million and the cost of the finished structure of the convention structure at P250 Million or a total of P350 Million.
Using the floor area 6,400 sqms. of the DPWH contractor (Hilmarc) at the DPWH price of P40,000.00 per sqm, is only around P250 Million.
That is P450 Million less than what the P700 million to be spent on the ICC once it is completed inside MegaWorld’s Business Park. Even with the 8,932 sqms floor area that the DPWH used when it published its bidding in the Manila Standard in July 2013, that would only be P350 Million!!!