'[T] he public started to ask questions, the project site being observed to be almost abandoned. Questions lingered on the cost of the delay to the local economy and to the people and parties responsible for this delay.'
The delay in the construction of the Tacloban International Airport terminal and its facilities is estimated to result in losses to the local economy that will reach to billions of pesos.
Because of the magnitude of its negative impact to the local economy, many liken this delay to “criminal neglect”.
Directly responsible for these losses caused by the delay in the construction are the contractors, MAC Builders, and the government agency overseeing its development, the Department of Transportation (DoTr).
Other government agencies and officials share, though, the guilt by being silent, making them complicit in the commission of this “crime”.
A Catch-Up Plan
The contract should have been terminated by the DoTr, when slippage reached 15 percent, the maximum tolerance given to delayed projects. Then another competent contractor get to finish the project but the negligent contractor getting to pay for the damage it has done from the project delay.
Unfortunately, the DoTr preferred to accommodate and become party to the usual tricks in the trade that allowed extension in the completion schedule.
Today, official report says, project slippage is at over 38 percent and termination of the contract is not on the table. Instead, unverified reports say the gov’t may allow a catch up plan.
While this catch-up plan is being offered, the project appears to have been abandoned, with almost zero activity being observed (based on my last visit to the city last month) in the construction site.
Looking back, this international airport was the subject of an study by the Japan International Cooperation Agnecy (JICA). This was given approval by the Regional Development Council in that year and endorsed to for funding to the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund of Japan in that year.
Although approved , the project was not funded in that year. the congressman at that time, representing first district of Leyte was Imelda Romualdez Marcos.
In the two years of President Joseph Estrada in Malacañang, this was funded. Unfortunately, the appropriation was diverted to another city in the Visayas, leaving Tacloban City waiting for the funds.
In September of 2020, or 23 years after its approval, then House Majority Floor Leader and Leyte’s 1st district representative to the Lower House, Martin Romualdez, unveiled approved design of the airport terminal.
This was three years after the DoTr, released the initial funds of P150 million for start of the project.
540 Days to 23 years
Construction of the airport was awarded to MAC Builders in joint venture with ML Builders, Inc. This was to be completed in 540 working days or 15 months that started in December 2020.
Original project cost for phase 1 was P699 million. This ballooned to P759 million due to variation orders.
Then the delays got noticed. In early 2023, the slippage was already at 14.5 percent. this went to 38.655 percent in July 2023.
And the public started to ask questions, the project site being observed to be almost abandoned. Questions lingered on the cost of the delay to the local economy and to the people and parties responsible for this delay.
How much damage has this project caused the local economy?
Cost to the economy can be estimated at two fronts, the multiplier effect of funds used in infrastructure.
First, infrastructure at the time of construction is a shot in the arm to the local economy. Moneys used to buy materials and salaries paid to workers are counted as reasons in approving government projects.
Second, when the project is completed, the projects contribution to the uptick of the local business is computed. In this case, the increase in tourist traffic.
In the first, the economy lost P9.6 billion, using a report prepared for the RDC.
In the second, the economy lost an estimated P7.18 billion per year, cited n the same report.
(We are posting the Executive Summary on the economic impact of the delay in the construction of Tacloban International airport Project in our OpinYon website.)
Ombudsman Must Step In
The economic impact of this delay translated to pesos is so big, in fact, mind-boggling, that this neglect can easily qualify for the description “heartless”, in a region that is struggling to be competitive.
Where do we go to seek redress when our government officials are silent?
One suggestion is the Ombudsman that investigates and tries officials who are proven negligent in their performance resulting in losses to the government and the people.
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