Since it is already an accepted truth that the Philippines is a laggard in attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs) compared to some of its neighbors in Southeast Asia, what the country does not need at this point is an issue that will make foreign investors more apprehensive.
We are talking of the potential negative press or publicity that can arise from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) project, which Sen. Sergio Osmena 3rd has put into question.
Last week, Osmena threatened to sue the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) if it awards the P17.7-billion project to the consortium of Megawide Construction Corp. and GMR Infrastructure Ltd. of India, which the senator alleged had a questionable financial standing.
Apparently, one of the losing bidders for the project, the consortium of Filinvest and Singaporean partner Changi, has been complaining of the DOTC’s possible award of the MCIA contract to the Megawide-GMR group.
Megawide-GMR submitted a P14.4 billion upfront bid premium, which is the highest among the seven financial bids submitted to the DOTC by several consortiums, including Filinvest-Changi.
What is quite disturbing is Osmena’s motive in questioning the awarding of the MCIA contract, because his father, the late Gov. Sergio Osmena Jr. of Cebu, was the one who envisioned the construction of the Mactan airport in 1951.
If there is anything that the country needs today, it is the delay in the implementation of the MCIA project, which will transform the current airport in Cebu City into an international gateway for the Queen City of the South. Besides facilitating the entry of tourists in that part of the Philippines, a modernized MCIA will also help attract more investments into the Philippines.
It will also show that the Aquino administration is serious in modernizing the country’s airports and hopefully, will help improve the safety level of country’s aviation industry.
If the Senate will look into the awarding of the project, or if a case is filed in court, the MCIA project will most likely be stalled. Any of these scenarios would discourage foreign investors.
Based on latest data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Philippines attracted $3.9 billion worth of FDIs in 2013. Although that figure is 20 percent higher than the $3.2 billion recorded in 2012, the Philippines still lags behind some of its Southeast Asian neighbors like Vietnam and Thailand.
Vietnam in the first 10 months of 2013 reported $13.1 billion in FDIs, while Thailand, which is still suffering from a political crisis, expects an FDI figure of $33 billion in 2013.
We are not saying that a member of Congress has no right to file cases over big-ticket projects where there are obvious flaws or signs of corruption. But to threaten to file a case against the DOTC on grounds that the Megaworld-GMR consortium is not financially capable without citing specific figures is a good way to send chills down the spine of foreign investors eyeing the Philippines.
If there is anything that we wish from Osmena, it is for him to cite specific figures over how financially incapable the Megaword-GMR consortium really is, like figures from the financial statements of the two parties that form the consortium. So far, none has been disclosed, even if both companies are publicly-listed.
If indeed the DOTC committed an error in selecting the Megaworld-GMR consortium, then a rebidding of the MCIA project should be in order.
But hasn’t the country’s reputation as a destination for foreign investments suffered enough with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 case? Perhaps enough is enough.