Source:  Business World, 22 February 2012


THE GOVERNMENT is looking at expanding the public-private partnership (PPP) classroom project this year even as it has yet to realize investor response to an initial batch of proposed ventures, a Cabinet official said yesterday.

In a forum entitled “The PPP for School Infrastructure Project: Investor Conference” in Makati City, Education Secretary Armin A. Luistro said that aside from the P10.4-billion school infrastructure project, which is targeted for bidding before the end of June, the department may also start the bidding process for two additional projects during the second half.

“We want to monitor the first batch before we roll out the next phases because there may be some issues that have to be ironed out,” Mr. Luistro said in an interview after the forum.

The first phase of the classroom project will see the construction of a total of 9,332 classrooms, divided into three contracts for Regions I (Ilocos), III (Central Luzon) and IV-A (Calabarzon).

Mr. Luistro said that the next two phases are expected to build over 10,000 classrooms each for the Visayas and Mindanao, for a total of 30,000 classroom this year.

“The second batch will really kick off this year and if there will be no problems, the third batch can also be rolled out before yearend so that construction can start in January,” Mr. Luistro told reporters.

The government is fast-tracking the construction of schoolbuildings since the current gap of 66,800 classrooms is expected to widen with the implementation of its “K+12” and “Education for All” programs.

In the same forum, Education Undersecretary Francisco M. Varela said: “The PPP framework will harness private sector resources and technical expertise in order to fast-track the construction and delivery of classrooms, reduce costs for government, and introduce innovations in the design, construction methods, and materials for classroom construction.”

The PPP allows the construction of several thousand classrooms in multiple sites, he added, while the conventional scheme of the Department of Education (DepEd) can only work with a few classrooms in a single site. Cost is also expected to be stretched up to 10 years under PPP, compared to the conventional progressive payment scheme which requires full payment upon project completion.

For 2012, government has appropriated P4 billion as first-year amortization payments for the classroom project.

DepEd posted the invitation to apply for prequalification to bid for the first phase of the project on Jan. 8.

The deadline for applications, meanwhile, has been moved to March 23 from the April 23 deadline earlier published.

This allots about one year for construction, if the classrooms are to be made available for the next school year. The government hopes to finish the first phase of the project by July next year.

Interested parties are required to pay a non-refundable fee of P100,000 to acquire invitation documents, which include details on the contract packages, instructions to prospective bidders, list of required qualification documents and the draft of the minimum performance standards and specifications (MPSS) for the project.

DepEd officials also detailed in the forum the MPSS, saying that bidders must be capable of the following: pre-design investigation and analyses; securing permits for all project stages; design development and contract documentation; building construction and post-construction activities; and periodic maintenance over a 10-year period.

A technical committee composed of DepEd, the Public Works department and other agencies and private consultants will evaluate bids based on compliance with the MPSS.

As of Tuesday, 15 firms have acquired invitation documents, Mr. Valera said, adding that the prospective bidders are mostly local companies, with some foreigners also looking to participate.

“[W]e would want to add maybe five to 10 more… 15 is already a good number for us but obviously we would like to increase the number of participants,” Mr. Varela said.

Since the contracts will be awarded separately, it is possible that three separate firms will likely be selected for the project, Mr. Varela said. He added, however, that it is also possible for one firm to win all three contracts. — Kim Arveen M. Patria