Dec 172014

Michael Tan and Joseph Chua who are both friends of mine called me to clarify that there is no “intrigue at PAL” (Spy Bits Dec. 16). They both denied the existence of any demolition job or intrigues within the family against Joseph. As pointed out to me by businessman Tony Garcia, the delay of the Macau PAL flight incident was caused by the offloading of the baggage of a passenger who failed to show up. Our PAL source tells us the “mountainous” uproar over radio and television regarding the matter must have been encouraged by outside “intrigueros.”

Trouble at SCTEX

Bases Conversion Development Authority CEO Arnel Casanova is in the news again after Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) interim operator Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) aired its concern over BCDA’s decision to publish an advertisement inviting bidders for the so-called “price challenge” on the privatization of SCTEX. Apparently, BCDA did not even bother to consult MNTC on the terms of reference for the bidding – a clear violation of the Business and Operating Agreement (BOA) both parties signed in 2011, according to informed sources. 

If one can remember, Casanova was the same guy who tried to prevent mall developer SM from completing the construction of the Mckinley Parkway access road leading to SM Aura just before the high-end mall was set to open in May last year. A YouTube video showed Casanova with his retinue of security guards looking like they were gearing up for battle – armed with automatic assault weapons complete with bulletproof attire – arriving at the construction site with someone from Casanova’s retinue even threatening violence against the site personnel. High-handedness seems to be an apt description for Casanova’s style of management. 

Insiders say MNTC actually made a third – and much better – offer to government to manage SCTEX following negotiations under the Aquino administration, but recent developments might just compel the interim operator to take legal action questioning the validity of the so-called price challenge which, we’re told, is not even part of the 2011 BOA.  

BCDA unilaterally published the TOR and invited bidders without the prior concurrence of MNTC on the provisions and worse, without the prior common understanding that the new contract should be anchored on the 2011 BOA, our sources said. If the BCDA is not careful, it could find itself in a legal tangle similar to what happened with the LRT1-MRT3-MRT-7 common station project because of the DOTC’s unilateral decision to transfer the location of the common station from the SM North EDSA Mall to Trinoma – in violation of a Memorandum of Agreement approved by the National Economic and Development Authority in 2009.

Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

In the published invitation to bid (ITB), BCDA said the object of the price challenge is only the upfront cash “which should be higher than P3.5 billion, payable upon signing of the agreement,” and that the other commercial terms indicated in the TOR “should be accepted” by the bidders. Those in the know say the ITB is misleading because the P3.5 billion is actually broken down into a front payment of P2.9 billion plus a P600-million allocation for the repair of an SCTEX bridge and the NLEX-SCTEX integration.

The ITB set a 50-50 revenue-sharing arrangement in sync with MNTC’s offer, but it did not specify that the interim operator’s offer was for a minimum revenue share for government of P400 million annually from next year till 2019. A major concern is the possibility that relevant provisions contained in the 2011 agreement might not be included in the TOR or discussed with potential bidders, which could leave MNTC with the short end of the deal.

We’re told MNTC had previously agreed to the price challenge, even issuing an urgent request for a discussion of the necessary amendments to the BOA including the terms, conditions, procedure and timetables for the price challenge before the TOR is publicly released.  Imagine the surprise, therefore, when MNTC execs just read about it in the papers. That’s partnership for you, the informant commented.

Promoting peace through technology

Bambina Olivares-Wise, who has been living in Europe for 30 years, is now back and actively involved in NGOs such as PeaceTech that is harnessing the power of information technology via videoconferencing and social media as tools to reduce armed conflict in the country.

PeaceTech recently joined forces with Ambassador Philip Goldberg and the US Embassy in Manila to launch the “Empowerment for Peace through Information and Communication” (EPIC) program to conduct a massive videoconference connecting thousands of young people in Cotabato and Zamboanga cities. Supported by PLDT that generously provided a high-speed line, the videocon saw high school students and out-of-school youth from the regions of Central and Western Mindanao engaging in dialog to help foster trust by correcting misperceptions generated by misinformation and lack of communication between the youth. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, who flew to Zamboanga City to speak live to the thousands of Filipino youth through the video screen, told his audience, “All of you, standing together, can make a difference.”

Aside from her involvement with NGOs, Bambina will be joining the lifestyle section of The New Standard starting January next year.

MVP joins STAR party

“Boss of all bosses” Manny Pangilinan was the guest of honor at the Christmas party of The Philippine Star held yesterday at the Sofitel. This was the first time for MVP to join the Christmas celebration of the country’s top newspaper since the MVP group first acquired a 20-percent stake in the paper, which it later increased to a majority share ownership last April.

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