Business Mirror, 25 October 2014
By Lorenz S. Marasigan
DIVERSIFIED conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) urged President Aquino to accept its disqualified bid for the P35.42-billion Cavite-Laguna Expressway (Calax), instead of rebidding the deal.

Optimal Infrastructure Development Inc. (OIDI) said the government must come up with a streamlined process of reviewing its petition for reconsideration for the contract.

“Our pending appeal is for Malacañang to declare our bid for the Calax project as compliant, and accept our P20.1-billion bid to get this vital infrastructure going,” the infrastructure arm of the most diversified company in the Philippines said.

SMC, chaired by Eduardo Cojuangco Jr., the uncle of President Aquino, was disqualified from the auction due to a defective bid security, which was a few days short of the required cover period.

The bidding process went on without OIDI, leaving three bidders to compete for the much-coveted deal.

The financial proposal of the firm was returned to the company during the opening of the three compliant bidders’ offers.

Team Orion of Ayala Corp. and Aboitiz Land Inc. emerged as the front-runner during the auction, submitting P11.66 billion in premium payments to the government.

Two other parties submitted premium bids, as well, with MPCALA Holdings Inc. of Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. trailing behind with a hairline difference from that of Team Orion’s offer. The tollways arm of Metro Pacific Investments Corp. submitted an P11.33-billion concession payment to do the expressway project.

MTD Capital Bhd., meanwhile, proposed to do the project at a P922-million premium.

After the opening of the financial proposals, SMC officials came to the media and opened the firm’s financial proposal, which carried a P20.1-billion premium offer.

Left with no legal recourse, the diversified conglomerate decided to bring its battle to win the deal to Malacañang.

It has been four months since the food-to-infrastructure firm sought Malacañang’s power to overturn the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) decision of disqualifying the firm due to the technicality.

President Aquino on Wednesday said he is inclined to reopen the bidding for the P35.4-billion deal, as this would be the better option over favoring one group to another.

However, rebidding the project puts the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Program in a bad light.

Team Orion said it found Mr. Aquino’s statement as distasteful as the prospect of rebidding the deal despite an aboveboard auction held in June.

The tandem of Ayala Corp. and Aboitiz Land Inc. pointed out that such a move would remove the trust of potential investors in the cornerstone program of the Aquino administration.

Team Orion warned the government of losing the two big companies as partners to bridge the gap in the country’s lack of infrastructure.

The tandem then urged the government to “respect the well-established process and uphold its own rules, and award the project to the highest complying bidder, so we can begin building much needed infrastructure.”

The project is a 47-kilometer thoroughfare that would start from the Manila-Cavite Expressway in Kawit, Cavite, and end at the South Luzon Expressway (Slex)-Mamplasan Interchange in Biñan, Laguna. It would consist of nine interchanges and a toll barrier before the Slex.

The third PPP project under the DPWH, the expressway is seen to decongest traffic along the Cavite-Laguna road network.

Construction of the multibillion-peso expressway is seen to start by October next year. It is expected to be completed by September 2017.

Since the infrastructure program’s inception in 2010, the government has awarded seven contracts so far.

The government hopes to finish at least eight projects before President Aquino steps down from office in 2016.