The corruption in Iloilo City has reached the national consciousness with the apparent anomalies in the construction of its controversial convention center. Charged with Plunder in the Office of the Ombudsman are the honorable Senate President Franklin Drilon, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson, DoT Secretary Ramon Jimenez, among others.
The complaint is on the alleged overpricing of the P700 Million Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) that will host the forthcoming 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. The complainant is Manuel Mejorada, former provincial administrator of Iloilo and a well-known crusading print and broadcast journalist in Iloilo, who has filed his fourth case against Senator Drilon with the Ombudsman since last year.
The project cost of the ICC started with only P300 Million in April 2013 and later increased to P450 Million five months later in September.
DPWH Secretary Singson explained to Ms. Karen Davila at ANC’s Headstart that DPWH was able to get an additional P200 Million from the Department of Budget & Management (DBM). However, Mr.
Singson claims ignorance when asked about the source of funds.
Secretary Singson said that when DPWH receives the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) from the Department of Budget & Management (DBM), it did not indicate the source of funds. This hard to believe because the SARO is the” document issued by the DBM that triggers the release of funds for lump-sum items, such as the Priority Development Acceleration Fund (PDAF) or pork.” (Source: PCIJ)
From P450 Million or P500 Million, the project cost went up again to P700 Million because the DPWH was able to once again obtain an additional P200 Million from the DBM. This explains why the ICC has two contracts: Phase I for P492 Million and Phase II for P187.6 Million.
Hence, it becomes obvious that the project cost of the ICC was really flexible depending on the public funds that Senator Drilon could get like the P100 Million from the despicable DAP that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
It did stop with P700 Million because Senate President Drilon, the native son of Iloilo, described the ICC as a “P1.0 Billion project” last February during the Dinagyan Festival in Iloilo City. It is rather curious why the project cost of the ICC kept on escalating when its design has not changed! Speaking of the avowed policy of “Transparency & Accountability” of the Aquino administration with its Daang Matuwid!
The main issue on the P488 Million overprice of the controversial convention center is on the total floor area. The computation in the complaint is that it would only cost P192 Million to build the ICC based on the floor area of 6,400 square meters (sqms) at the cost of P30,000.00 per sqm. Thus, Mr. Mejorada, the complainant, believes that the convention center is already overpriced even at the original project cost of P300 Million.
Mr. Mejorada further claims that Senator Drilon used the same figure of P30,000 per sqm as “the industry standard” even for first class buildings like five-star hotels. DPWH Secretary Singson confirmed the same “industry standard” costing in an interview with Ms Sandra Aguinaldo of GMA 7 TV News a few days before the case was filed. Mr. Singson also acknowledged that the SMX in the Mall of Asia cost only P26,000 per sqm.
The DPWH Secretary explained that the costings in the private sector cannot be compared to the government contracts and tacitly admitted that DWPH projects do cost more. He said the same thing when interviewed by Ms. Karen Davila in ANC’s Headstart TV program last Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2014. Secretary Singson now says that the cost is P60,000.00 to P65,000.00 per sqm or DOUBLE the P30,000.00 per sqm “industry standard.”
It now appears that Senator Drilon and Secretary Singson have been talking lately on the plunder complaint filed against them with the Office of the Ombudsman. They are both citing the figure of 11,6000 sqms as the total floor area of the ICC and that the 6,400 sqms floor area used in the complaint against them is all wrong. However, it seems that the communication between the DPWH and the Senate President is not well-coordinated.
The Facebook webpage of Hilmarc Construction Corporation, the contractor of the controversial Iloilo Convention Center, states that the floor area of the ICC is 6,400 sqms, as filed in the complaint, and NOT 11,600 sqms as Senate President Drilon claimed when interviewed by media on the day the Plunder case was filed against him.
DPWH Secretary Rogelio “Babes” Singson likewise told Ms. Karen Davila at ANC’s TV program that the floor area is indeed 11,600 sqms, which is inconsistent with the 6,400 sqms stated in the webpage of their own DPWH contractor. There is a Big Difference of 5,200 sqms between 11,600 sqms and 6,400 sqms.
DPWH Secretary Singson justifies the increase in floor area by saying that the ICC is “equivalent to seven floors” due to its ceiling height. His statement exposes his IGNORANCE to building construction. You cannot enlarge the floor area just because of the high ceiling height.
There is no additional construction cost for what is occupied by air! Because there are NO beams, flooring and partitions. At most the increased costs are in the taller posts, columns and walls.
Senate President Drilon also tried to justify the obscene overprice by saying the convention center is equivalent to “five floors.” The estimate of Senator Drilon, a lawyer who admits that he is not a “technical” person, seems more realistic to the claim of the DPWH secretary that the ICC is “equivalent to seven floors.”
The multi-billion public infrastructure projects in Iloilo province are known to be obscenely overpriced from the P8.8 Billion Iloilo Airport to the P1.9 Billion Iloilo Circumferential Road. Then there is also the P296 Million road-widening project (with wide sidewalks) of the Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr. Avenue that is only 1.2 kms in length and the P82 Million Esplanade promenade project along the Iloilo River.
All these projects were initiated by and identified with Senate President Drilon. Iloilo City Congressman Jerry Treñas also has his P50 Million Dungon Bridge project where the existing bridge in good working condition was shamelessly demolished. Then there is also the Iloilo City Hall that cost over P800 Million or more than four times the Bacolod City Hall even if the population of the latter is more than the former.
If Iloilo is the “Corruption Capital of the Philippines” and its top elected officials—from senator to congressman and mayor—belong to the ruling Liberal Party, then what does it say about the avowed Daang Matuwid of President Benigno Aquino 3rd?