Filipino Diplomat: Aquino’s Laguna Lake flood-control project to replace Arroyo’s never took off - The Daily Sentry

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Filipino Diplomat: Aquino’s Laguna Lake flood-control project to replace Arroyo’s never took off

Photo of former President Benigno Aquino III during a SONA from Inquirer, inserted photo of his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from Google

The former ambassador to Cyprus and Greece and veteran writer Rigoberto Tiglao was the one who revealed that former President Benigno Aquino III axed a flood-control project of his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2010.

Tiglao, on his latest Manila Times column said that Aquino had Arroyo’s project replaced with another plan which never took off.

“Not just one but two things worse. First, P1.2 billion in taxpayers’ money went down the drain as a result of the Belgian contractor’s suit, in the form of a P700 million payment to it and over P500 million in legal fees. (How many new floodwater-pumping stations could that have constructed? At P10 million per plant, 125, enough to make at least Quezon City flood-free.)” Tiglao wrote

“And second, and probably much worse, the flood-control project Aquino boasted would replace Arroyo’s, never took off after five years of planning — because of his and his bureaucracy’s sheer incompetence.” He continued.

In the past weeks, Metro Manila drenched in flood due to continues pour of heavy rains.

The former envoy even provided a brief narrative as to why Manila have been flooded despite the installation of more than two dozen flood-pumping stations in the past two years.

Arroyo’s Project

As the writer mentioned in the past articles, Aquino cancelled Arroyo’s Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Project, which would have dredged the lake of 4.6 million cubic meters of silt and waste so it could contain more floodwaters.

Aquino reportedly claimed that the project was ridden with corruption. He ordered it stopped in November 2010, however, six years after going through all the records, there was not a single hint of corruption was found – says Tiglao.*

Then in 2012, Aquino announced that Arroyo’s flood-control project would be replaced by a better and bigger project called Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike Project.

The said project, according to Tiglao should cost P123 billion, or seven times higher than Arroyo’s P19 billion project.

“After two years, Aquino ordered that the project be placed under his preferred type of infrastructure funding, the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) program, a highfalutin’ term for the private sector to finance public works they would turn into a high-profit enterprise, because of an infrastructure’s monopoly features. (For example, the SLEX and NLEX have monopoly features as the only expressways in their areas.)” the former diplomat explained.

Biggest PPP project

The former president announced in his 2014 SONA that flood-control would be the largest project under PPP, yet would cost nothing for tax payers.

“Bidding will open before the end of 2014,” Aquino’s statement in the said SONA.

“The board of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) of which the president was chairman, formally approved the project on June 19, 2014, so Aquino could claim that the project was on track in his July 28 SONA.” Tiglao wrote.

Then after being postponed several times, bidding finally happened on March 28, 2016.*
To make the story short, the said project at the end did not push through, due to bidders’ claim of “failed bidding”

“Although couched in polite terms, the bidders blamed government for the failed bidding, because of its incompetence in its preparation of the P123 billion project.” Tiglao wrote.

Tiglao said that what Aquino did, is a “cautionary tale” on relying on a PPP model to build infrastructure, which according to the columnist, is a model that President Duterte is not a believer of.

He added that Arroyo’s Laguna Lake Project would have been financed by a bank loan arranged by the main contractor Baagerwerken Decloedt En Zoon (BDZ), and a grant from its Belgian government.

“ In contrast, Aquino thought he could rely on his big-business friends to finance a project crucial to the well-being of Filipinos.” Tiglao said.

“These big businesses all apparently expressed enthusiasm for the project only to back out at the last minute — putting on hold an infrastructure project that could have mitigated flooding in Metro Manila and in Laguna province, certainly an urgent need for us living in the metropolis. As in all PPP projects, a source claimed, the tycoons tried to wangle a better deal from government and thought they could, until time run out for them.” He continued.

“He told his audience in April 2016 that if they wanted the project to continue, so floods will be mitigated, they should vote for his candidate Mar Roxas. What a jerk.” Tiglao also wrote.