For several issues now, this column has exposed the many problems besetting the construction of the New Terminal Building of the Tacloban Airport also known as the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport. The problem associated with excessive delay in implementation seemed to be over with the announcement of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) that the negative slippage as of September 25, 2023, was down to zero from a high of 38 percent in July, or only 60 days earlier.
Consistent with its propensity to work slowly despite calls by the government to speed up work based on a Catch-Up Plan presented in September, MAC Builders, the contractor, is back to its usual ways, and to a negative slippage of 20 percent, per the CAAP report. Government rules clearly state that if a negative slippage reaches at least 15 percent, the government must initiate termination proceedings against the contractor. This columnist, along with 12 other Private Sector Representatives in the Regional Development Council (RDC), has been calling for such termination since August, but to deaf ears.
As noted in this column, the ability of this contractor to implement the Catch- Up Plan that will enable it to finish its phase of the project by March 2024, will not be achieved. This was obvious in the On-site Inspection and meeting done by the Regional Development Council’s Project Monitoring Committee last October 27. In an informal and unofficial assessment, in answer to this columnist’s question, the DPWH representative in the meeting told me that, off the record, this phase of the project could take two more years to complete at the rate work was progressing.
That really floored me. As a lawyer, I thought MAC’s project would be a year late, but this is an engineering matter. In his expert engineer’s opinion, two more years are needed. I bow and say, he is correct.
This leads me to observe that, first, the CAAP reports are bloated in favor of the contractor. Second, this begs the question: why would CAAP engineers do it? It made me curious until somebody told me that many of the CAAP people working on this project are contractual employees, not regular CAAP staff. So, I concluded that this explains the lack of a sense of accountability and the lack of fear. If things do not go as planned, they will simply leave the project. No leave credits or GSIS benefits to worry about. In fact, they could literally “take the money and run”. Get the point? (This is, however, not to say the regular employees will not do the same hit-and-run tactics)
This expert opinion that the project would be completed in 2025 was unnerving. There are two more phases to go. Two years of delay could extend to three to four years of delay. I have estimated that each year the project is delayed, and the international airport operations cannot be undertaken, the losses in tourist receipts or revenues will be equivalent to Five Billion pesos multiplied by the number of years of delay the figure reaches gargantuan proportions. Based on current trends the delay will be 4 years (from a planned 2025 opening to 2029), therefore, it is highly probable that the financial and economic loss of the delay will be some twenty billion pesos.
There are many scenarios to think of. One is that by the time the project is completed, it needs to be expanded because tourism is booming all over the country. For example, the three bays or bridges connecting the terminal to the airplanes will need to be increased from the present 3, as planned, to 5.
Also, there could be other infrastructure improvements needed like wider access roads, more spaces in the vehicle parking areas, and larger sewerage and garbage disposal facilities.
The analysis and commentary can go on and on. But at the moment, the government must solve the super delay in the construction of the New Airport Terminal Building. Right now, it is miserably failing in this task, due, probably, to deaf ears. (In which case the project needs an EENT specialist.)
(When the government is not taking you seriously, do it the Filipino way – laugh at your sorrows.) At any rate, this RDC monitoring activity seems to be a big joke. It is not getting anywhere.
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