MANILA - Malacañang on Wednesday said the World Bank’s debarment of two Chinese firms will not disqualify them from participating in the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi City.
Two firms, China State Construction Engineering Corporation (CSCEC) and China Geo Engineering Corporation, were among those tapped to rehabilitate Marawi City's so-called “ground zero.” Critics have questioned their inclusion in the consortium after it was found they were once blacklisted by the World Bank for allegedly colluding with local companies in the Philippines to rig projects partly financed by the World Bank.
“Per se, that record will not disqualify them… Under either the law that provides for swiss challenge or the BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) law, or government procurement act, the one which should blacklist is the Philippine government for them to be disqualified in participating in any public tender,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a video interview.
The blacklist period for the two firms has since lapsed, the inter-agency Task Force Bangon Marawi noted.
Earlier, opposition Liberal Party questioned the inclusion of the two Chinese firms, as local officials admitted that the firms' tainted past might affect public confidence.
“The people of Marawi already suffered enough. The administration should not aggravate their pain by turning a blind eye on martial law abuses and counting on Chinese contractors with questionable backgrounds to take charge of Marawi City’s rehabilitation,” LP said in a statement.
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Assemblyman Zia Alonto Adiong, meanwhile, said while the legal aspect of the issue was easier to address, “here in Marawi City we are also dealing with battle of perception.”
“We have had the experience of Yolanda. And we do not want any reason to replicate what happened at least on the perception of the people. We want to insulate the minds of the people from ever thinking that there’s a semblance of, you know, questionable dealings in the process,” Adiong said in a press briefing at the Lanao del Sur provincial capitol.
“We [want to] avoid the misconception that might arise in the minds of the people that because there are several… possible potential developers that are to handle the reconstruction with a questionable past, that might lead to something - not only frustration, but it may lead to something worse than frustration or disappointment. And we cannot afford that to happen.”
Marawi City Mayor Majul Gandamra shared Adiong’s view, saying “legally speaking and technically speaking, there was no problem with that. But morally, the reconstruction or rebuilding of Marawi City should be devoid of any stigma of impropriety.”
The Philippines on Wednesday marked the first year since the Marawi crisis erupted, which saw Islamic State-inspired terrorists capture parts of the predominantly Islamic city in a bid to establish a stronghold in Southeast Asia.
Over 1,000 people, mostly ISIS-inspired terrorists, were killed during the 5-month siege. The siege also displaced some 200,000 residents and the government has yet to fully open the city to civilians, some of whom wish to rebuild their homes.