Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party-List Rep. Jericho Nograles smells something fishy with the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) involving GMR Megawide consortium for the P107-billion expansion project of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

NAIA mb2 e1481943414334 - Solon questions NAIA expansion project
(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“GMR Megawide has an equity of P17.9 billion only as of 2019. If you compare that with the MIAA (Manila International Airport Authority), the MIAA alone has P47 billion in equity. Which means it is more than sufficient for the MIAA to develop by itself,” Nograles said during Tuesday’s House briefing on the Department of Transportation’s (DoTr) proposed P143.1-billion budget for 2021.

The MIAA, which operates NAIA, is an attached agency of the DoTr.

Nograles said the required equity under the 70-30 set up for the project is P32 billion, or roughly twice Megawide’s current financial capacity. However, this requirement which should have disqualified Megawide was lifted a few months earlier, he said.

“I’d like to manifest that the 70-30 finance and equity requirement was re-negotiated (by DoTr and MIAA). And during a meeting on Friday, 24 July 2020, the minimum equity requirement was lifted dahil hindi na kaya ng private group na mag-raise ng necessary equity of at least P32 billion dahil ang kaya lang nila P17.9 billion (because the private group isn’t capable of raising the necessary equity of at least P32 billion, they could only muster P17.9 billion).

“So nakakatakot ito kung ipu-pursue pa rin ang pag-lift at pagbibigay ng concession na ito (Pursuing this lifting and the granting of this concession will be the source of great concern),” said the Davao-based congressman.

Connecting the dots, Nograles said he found it odd why the NAIA expansion project was removed from the list of government priority projects back in 2016.

“I cannot think of a reason why it was taken out conveniently despite having enough money, except that they are making it convenient for MIAA to not spend the people’s money properly so that they can invite private individuals to make money off our passengers. Mukhang mali ata ang pag-utilize ng budget kung ganyan (Looks like that’s a wrong way to utilize the budget),” he said.

MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal was present in the budget briefing via Zoom. However, he lost connection just seconds after Nograles began to ask him questions on the NAIA project.

Responding to Nograles, DoTr Undersecretary for Planning and Development Ruben Reinoso admitted that GMR Megawide was non-compliant with the needed documentary requirements as far as proving the consortium’s financial capability is concerned.

“They have not fully complied because the ICC (Investment Coordination Committee of the National Economic Development Authority Board) technical board has requested for additional documentary proof of their financial capability. But as I said earlier, they did send some financial documents,” he said.

“We are still awaiting the compliance of the consortium on the requirement of ICC so that we can review them and submit them to the ICC for their own appreciation and evaluation,” added Reinoso.

Nograles claimed that the deadline for the documents already lapsed last week. But when he conferred with Reinoso, the latter said the final deadline was for the ICC to decide.

In a statement after the briefing, Nograles said Reinoso’s remarks were a clear admission that the DoTr committed something illegal and tantamount to graft because a contract must be awarded only to a proponent which has already fully satisfied the documentary requirement as required by law.

Last week, the party-list solon wrote DoTr Secretary Arthur Tugade a letter expressing his concern on the “continuing consideration of the GMR Megawide unsolicited proposal for the expansion of the Manila International Airport.”

Nograles reminded Tugade that Republic Act (RA) 6957 or the Build-Operate-Transfer law, as amended by RA 7718, requires private sector project proponents to have an “adequate financial base to implement said project consisting of equity and firm commitments from reputable financial institutions to provide, upon award, sufficient credit lines to cover the estimated cost of the project.”

“It is therefore very alarming that your office negotiated and approved that there will be no minimum equity requirements on the part of the project proponent. This accommodation was not extended to the previous mega-consortium, and may be considered in violation of  Republic Act 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for giving unwarranted benefits, advantage, or preference to a private party,” he said.

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