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More delays await Drilon pet project

ILOILO CITY—Construction of one of the big ticket projects of former President Benigno Aquino III is expected to be further delayed after a court in Quezon City stopped a new bidding that was protested by a foreign firm that wants to build the project.

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) stopped the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) from conducting a new bidding for the P11.2-billion megadam project in Iloilo province, a pet project of then Senate President Franklin Drilon and one of the priorities of the then Aquino administration.

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The court order was issued by Presiding Judge Luisito Cortez, of the Quezon City RTC Branch 84, on Oct. 20.

The court ordered the NIA to instead reevaluate the bids submitted by Korean firms Daewoo and Daelin to build the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project (JRMP) II, according to lawyer Genever Dionio, head of the NIA legal services office.

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Project construction was supposed to have started in 2015 yet.

Technicality

The bids and awards committee of the NIA central office declared failure of bidding after the Korean firms were declared lacking in documents.

Daewoo, Dionio said, failed to submit a lump sum price analysis while Daelin lacked documents on its financial capability.

Daewoo went to court to stop the new bidding, accusing the NIA’s bids committee of grave abuse of authority when it declared failure of bidding.

Daewoo had submitted a bid of P8.6 billion, lower than the P9.8-billion budget that would come from a South Korean loan. The Philippine government is providing at least P2 billion in counterpart funding.

The NIA, through the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, filed a motion for reconsideration of the Quezon City RTC decision. It was supposed to be heard on Dec. 16 but the hearing was moved to Jan. 30 next year.

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Dionio said there was nothing questionable about the NIA decision to declare failure of bidding. “We are merely following rules and procedures on the bidding process,” Dionio said.

Gerardo Corsiga, NIA Western Visayas manager, said the agency is ready to start construction. “We are just waiting for the case and the bidding to be resolved,” he said.

Project impact

The proposed megadam project in Calinog town, the biggest outside Luzon, has repeatedly faced delays because of strong opposition and stringent requirements of the banks.

The JRMP II is the second of a two-stage project aimed at using water from the Jalaur River for power generation and irrigation.

It involves the construction of three dams, a 6.6-megawatt hydro power plant and an 81-km long canal.

The NIA and other project proponents claimed that the JRMP II would generate at least 17,000 jobs during construction and provide Iloilo province with stable supplies of water and electricity.

The project, however, would displace thousands of Tumandok, or Panay-Bukidnon, Panay Island’s biggest indigenous people’s group who stand to lose farms, burial grounds and ancestral lands if the project pushes through.

Project opponents raised environmental and safety concerns and are instead pushing for smaller dams as an alternative.

The NIA assured the safety and viability of the JRMP II.

Officials also promised compensation, relocation and alternative livelihood programs for those to be displaced by the megadam.

The NIA had targeted completion of one of the dams before Mr. Aquino ended his term of office in June.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Drilon, Franklin Drilon, Iloilo City, Indigenous People's Group, megadam project, National Irrigation Administration, NIA, Panay Bukidnon, Panay Island, Quezon City Regional Trial Court, RTC, Tumandok
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