MANILA – Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares is raising questions about the bidding for the P65 billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) Cavite extension project.
He is asking why the government did not delay the bidding for a few weeks in order to get more bidders.
Another concern is the ties between DOTC Usec. Rene Limcaoco and Jose Teodoro Limcaoco, an official from the Ayala-Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) group, the lone bidder in the project.
“Si Usec. Limcaoco, ang alam namin ay hindi lang siya Usec sa DOTC, kapatid din niya ang isang mataas na opisyal ng Ayala,” said Colmenares.
Jose Teodoro Limcaoco is the president of Ayala-owned BPI Family Savings Bank.
He was appointed president of BPI Family Savings Bank in July 2010 after serving as president of BPI Capital Corp. in 2007 and as managing director of Ayala Corp. in 1998.
His brother, Usec. Limcaoco, is tasked to study projects bidded out through government’s public-private partnership (PPP) program.
'No conflict of interest'
DOTC spokesman Michael Arthur Sagcal denied, however, that there is a conflict of interest between the agency and the lone bidder.
“There is no truth to the claim that a brother of Undersecretary Limcaoco was involved in the LRT1 Cavite extension PPP bidding. We confirm from our records that Jose Teodoro Limcaoco is not a director, officer, or shareholder of AC Infrastructure or any other company forming the Light Rail Manila consortium,” he said.
Sagcal added that the insinuations being made are an attempt to cast doubt on the bidding process.
Ayala Corp. group head for corporate strategy and development Jose Eric Francia also said that Limcaoco “has no management function at Ayala nor its infrastructure arm, AC Infrastructure Holdings Corporation.”
“He had no involvement in any of the PPP bids that the Ayala group has participated in. As such, we strongly affirm the absence of conflict of interest in any of the DOTC bids,” Francia said.
Colmenares, however, is not convinced.
"Ang influence sa decision-making hindi naman 'yan nakikita lang sa signatory eh. Pwede mo talaga sabihin na wala naman akong signature diyan. Pero dahil Usec ka eh, ano ba naman na sagutin muna nila ang mga tanong na ito. 'Yun lang naman ang hinihingi ng riding public eh," said Colmenares.
Under bidding rules, relatives of government officials involved in the project are not allowed to participate in any bidding process.
LRTA to discuss P9-B offer
The LRTA board is expected to hold a meeting on July 16 to discuss the P9.35 billion offer made by the Ayala-MPIC group.
“We are still determining the availability of members but we target next week,” LRTA administrator Honorio Chaneco said.
The offer made by the consortium will have to be approved first by the joint Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the DOTC and the LRTA.
The offer will then have to be ratified by the LRTA board before Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya gives the final approval.
Aside from the LRT-1 extension project, Ayala Corp. is also part of the consortium that bagged the automatic fare collection system.
On top of this, the DOTC also supports the transfer of the proposed P1.4 billion MRT-LRT common station to Ayala Land's Trinoma mall, instead of the SM group's North EDSA mall.
It said the move will save the government some P800 million.
DOTC is downplaying efforts to delay the awarding of the LRT extension project, the biggest PPP project under the Aquino administration so far.
Some sectors raised concern that the privatization of the mass transit system will result to higher fares, but LRTA spokesman Atty. Hernando Cabrera said the petition for higher fares has been pending with the government even before the bidding of the project.
The project will extend the LRT line from Baclaran to Bacoor, Cavite. -- With a report from Jacque Manabat, ABS-CBN News