There is a lot of suspense unfolding in the multi-billion Tacloban Airport Development Project. It is a thriller in the making if it is not already. Let us by analogy compare this to a movie thriller.
There are many actors here. As described in this column several times, the Phase I portion of this project features four actors: the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the Department of Transportation (DOTr), and the Regional Development Council (RDC) particularly its attached committee, the Regional Project Monitoring Committee (RPMC), and the contractor MAB Builders in a joint venture with ML Builders.
At the center of the plot are the implementing agencies — DOTr and CAAP. Also having a major role is the contractor, and playing the role of problem-solver, the RPMC.
There is no story in a movie or in any play that does not have a conflict. What is the conflict here? The RPMC has recommended the termination of the contract of the existing contractor due to excessive negative slippage of 38 percent.
Even when the slippage has gone down to 20 percent, the RDC Executive Committee in its meeting last August 25, 2023, endorsed the RPMC Resolution because government rules provide that a project that reaches a negative slippage of at least 15 percent can be terminated. If it did not do so, then it would be violating the rules.
A Catch-Up plan
CAAP and DOTr opposed the Resolution saying that there was already a gentleman’s agreement between them and the contractor that the project would be completed in March 2024, instead of the currently registered completion targeted for October 31, 2023.
These two agencies promised to the RDC Executive Committee that a CAAP approved Catch Up Plan would be submitted to the RDC by September 1, 2023. CAAP representatives made this pledge after a MAC Builders representative presented to the RDC Executive Committee a Catch-Up Plan.
As mentioned above, this is a thriller.
What is the latest scene in this thriller? The CAAP submitted a Catch-Up Plan dated August 24, 2023, that places the completion date as October 31, 2023 and not March 2024.
What Plan is controlling now? The one presented to the RDC on Ausugust 25, 2023 or the Plan submitted with a cover later dated August 24, 2023.
If the dates are to be the basis for the answer, then the August 25, 2023 presentation amends the August 24 submission.
There seems to be no major issue because these are just dates. But dates are precisely the issue in this project. The Project is already a year and a half delayed. The huge slippage shows this.
Also placing the completion date at October 31 appears to be an attempt to change the negative slippage. A project with a negative 38 slippage after two years of implementation cannot possibly be completed in just three months after July 27, when the 38 percent negative slippage was observed.
The real deal
Overall, this appears to be an attempt to go on with the contract because the slippage is below 15 percent. This can only happen if many of the scopes of work were deleted from the original contract. The financial reductions because of this cut must be determined.
The suspense continues. The plot thickens. More actors could enter the picture.
However, this is not a movie. This is real. And because it is real, the situation calls for decisive action.
The CAAP should not hesitate to penalize the contractor because it has miserably failed to comply with the provisions of the contract, to the extent of jeopardizing the economic growth of the region.
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