Probe of P.7B Drilon project sought
MANILA, Philippines–A purported P700-million pet project of Senate President Franklin Drilon being carried out by Hilmarc’s Construction Corp., the contractor of the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building under scrutiny in the Senate, will be the subject of a congressional inquiry.
Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon has filed House Resolution No. 1466 urging the House committee on public works and highways to investigate in aid of legislation on possible cases of corruption and overpricing involving 20 government infrastructure projects erected by Hilmarc’s in the last decade.
Ridon’s probe will center on the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC), which the party-list lawmaker described as the most extortionate of the Hilmarc’s haul of government projects.
Ridon claimed that the ICC, which was funded partly out of Drilon’s P200-million allocation from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2012 and P100 million from Malacañang’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) in 2013, was being built at a cost of P109,375 per square meter based on a floor area of 6,400 sqm.
The center is four times more expensive than the estimated construction cost of the P900-million SMX Convention Center in Pasay City at P26,400 per sqm based on a floor area of 46,647 sqm, Ridon said.
“The ICC is overpriced by P531 million compared to the SMX Convention Center,” he said.
‘Muddling the issue’
Drilon blasted Ridon for using erroneous data in making false allegations against the ICC project, which was being rushed for completion in time for the Philippines’ hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) leaders’ meeting next year.
Drilon claimed that the ICC had a total floor area of 11,693.79 sqm—6,080 sqm in the ground floor, 3,381 sqm in the second floor, 668.73 sqm in the mezzanine level and 1,563.84 sq m on the roof deck—or nearly double Ridon’s assumed size of the project.
“The project costs P63,893.11 per sqm based on a design made by architect William V. Cosculluela. The building is seven stories tall and designed without any columns but with long span beams and glass curtain walls. It was bid out by Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, who is widely known for his integrity,” Drilon said in a phone interview.
Project nears completion
“He (Ridon) is just muddling the issue. You can’t compare two buildings just because they were built by the same contractor,” Drilon said, referring to Hilmarc’s Makati parking building, which a lawyer claimed was overpriced by P2 billion compared to other luxury buildings in Makati.
The two-story ICC, which is at least 85-percent completed, costs a total of P747 million, engineer Edilberto Tayao, Western Visayas director of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), told the Inquirer on Monday.
But in an earlier interview, Tayao said the whole project, including site development and landscaping would cost P830 million.
Tayao said the cost of P747 million for the building construction was based on the final program of work for three phases of the project.
“The building will be operational, functional and ready for occupancy. This will also include two escalators,” he said.
Apart from financing from the PDAF and the DAP for the project, Tayao said funding was also being provided by the DPWH and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority.
20 Hilmarc’s projects
Ridon likened his plan to comb through Hilmarc’s portfolio of government projects as “akin to opening the proverbial can of worms.”
“In the past decade, Hilmarc’s was able to clinch no less than 20 government infrastructure projects. In some cities, including Iloilo and Makati, Hilmarc’s was able to clinch two or more government infrastructure projects in consecutive years. Several government projects entered into by Hilmarc’s have been the center of local and national controversies involving issues of corruption and overpricing,” Ridon said in a press conference.
Aside from the ICC and the Makati parking building, Hilmarc’s other projects are the P550-million call center building of the Committee on Higher Education (suspended by the Commission on Audit); P184-million Makati police station; P21.5-million University of Makati auditorium finishing contract; P30.45-million Makati swimming pool; P2.1-billion Ospital ng Makati facility; P200-million Abra provincial hospital; P500-million Iloilo capitol building; P450-million Iloilo City Hall; Bacolod government center in 2010; P262-million Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in Dumaguete; Quezon City General Hospital; Quezon City civic center; Philippine National Oil Co. Building 5 and Fort Bonifacio Building; Valenzuela legislative building; Sandiganbayan building; and the House of Representatives south wing annex.
“The repetitive selection of Hilmarc’s for various anomalous government projects point to its probable close relations with high-ranking officials both on the national and local level. Such relations may have translated to favorable conditions for both Hilmarc’s and its officials as it is possible that Hilmarc’s engages in institutionalized overpricing in government projects in exchange for the rigging of bidding processes by government officials,” Ridon said in his resolution.
Cost within standards
Tayao said in an interview in Iloilo City that the project cost of Drilon’s initiative was “within standards” for a convention center.
The main convention hall on the ground floor can accommodate 3,000 persons while function rooms on the second floor are good for 560 persons. The second floor will also house a VIP room and museum/souvenir shop.
The first phase of the project, which involves the construction of the building shell, will be completed by November and will cost P500 million, Tayao earlier said.
Also included are earthworks, pile foundation, finishing and painting, sanitary and plumbing, electrical and mechanical works.
The second phase, which includes complete tile work, ceiling, escalators and part of the air conditioning units, is scheduled for procurement and is estimated to reach P200 million, he said.
A third phase that would mainly include landscaping is expected to cost P130 million.
The ICC is being built on a 1.7-hectare lot valued at P200 million donated by Megaworld. The lot is part of the company’s 54-ha property at the former Iloilo airport in Mandurriao District being developed as the Iloilo Business Park.
The state-of-the-art convention center is based on a design inspired by Iloilo’s Dinagyang and Paraw festivals. It is also designed to cater to world-class cuisine requirements.