CONGRESS, DAVAO CITY COUNCIL PROBE EYED IN OVERPRICING IN P17 BILLION SASA WHARF MODERNIZATION PROJECT

BY ROGER M. BALANZA

The ‘stink’ in the alleged overpricing in the modernization project of the Sasa Wharf in Davao City will most likely be investigated by Congress, according to Peter lavina, a former member of the Davao City Council.

The P17 billion project funded by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and to be implemented by the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) has drawn flak for its alleged gargantuan cost.

From the original study of P4 billion the new price tag for the Sasa Wharf expansion is now P17 billion, according to Lavina.

The overprice will most likely reach Congress for investigation, said Lavina who suspects the project is a midnight deal.

lavinaThe Davao City Council may also conduct its own investigation after a ranking member of the local legislative body said the ‘overpriced’ project will have a negative impact on the local economy.

City councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, chairman of the City Council comittee on ways and means and finance,  warned that the  high contract price could undermine the local economy as it would translate to higher transport and cargo costs.

Media reports on the alleged anomaly apparently is behind an emergency meeting called by DOTC and PPA with aim to clear up the controversy.

In a Facebook post (May5), Lavina wrote: “I just received word that officials from the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) and the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) are arriving today in Davao and will hold a meeting at Park Inn Hotel at SM Lanang.” “I hope they issue a statement to clarify the overprice of the Sasa Port PPP project. There is now a growing opposition to the project that it will likely reach Congress for investigation,” Lavina said. Lavina said the high cost of the project has raised suspicion in the ports building industry, including the International Container Services Inc. (ICTSI). Known worldwide, the Filipino company builds container ports and runs operation of port facilities in several countries.  

“No less than ICTSI of Enrique Razon, the country’s largest port operator, questioned the huge project cost,” Lavina wrote.

Suspicion of alleged irregularities in the project cost has also caught the eye of Dayanghirang who put to task the DOTC and PPA for the high cost.

“The DoTC had undercut, ignored, and totally undermined the study done by its own agency, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), to favor a much costlier proposal by a foreign consultancy group under the World Bank,” Dayanghirang said in a report in BusinessWorld.

 Suspicion on alleged  overpricing can be seen in the comparative cost of other ports development projects in the Davao Guif, according to Lavina, the first to write about the   apparent anomaly in the Sasa port project.

“(The Sasa Port Modernization Project) is more than four times the project cost based on the PPA study and three times the cost of the redevelopment of the Hijo Port in Tagum, Davao del Norte, which is pegged at P5.7 billion,” Lavina said also in the BusinessWorld report, further saying that the Davao International Container Terminal (DICT) of San Vicente Terminal and Brokerage Services, Inc. in Panabo City, also in Davao del Norte province, only cost P2.65 billion.

PHOTO: Sasa Wharf by CARMENCITA CARILLO

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