FEWER CLASSROOMS will likely be built under the P3.86-billion second phase of the country’s public-private partnership (PPP) school project, as the concessionaires rush to finish construction before the President steps down from office on June 30.

“I met with the DepEd (Department of Education) secretary, they’re looking at descoping. It means they will exclude certain school sites that are hard to access. The contractor will no longer build them,” PPP Center Executive Director Andre C. Palacios said in a telephone interview yesterday.

The project was targeted for completion by May 31, but only half of the classrooms are “completed,” according to a May 10 project brief from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Mr. Palacios said the inaccessible schools are “spread out” from one another and are located in the mountains and remote areas.

The original contract covers the Cordillera Administrative Region; Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon in Luzon; as well as Northern Mindanao and Caraga in Mindanao.

If the government decides to descope, there will be a reduction in the cost of the PPP project.

“There will be an impact on the project, there will be a downward adjustment, but I’m not sure how much,” Mr. Palacios said, when asked for figures.

As for the excluded classrooms, the DepEd can either ask the DPWH or the army engineers to build them.

“Another option is to stick to the existing scope. There will be same number of school sites but the contractor needs more time, the schedule will slide,” Mr. Palacios said.

A total of 2,211 classrooms — which make up 50.63% of the PPP for School Infrastructure Project (PSIP)-Phase 2 — are now “completed or substantially completed,” 1,212 classrooms or 21.26% are under construction, and 944 classrooms or 23.84% are still under “various pre-construction phases.”

In the project’s first phase, construction also suffered an almost two-year delay due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the project sites, further worsened by bad weather conditions.

The PSIP Phase 2 involves the designing, financing and construction of one-storey, two-storey, three-storey and four-storey classrooms, including furniture, fixtures, and toilets in 1,735 public schools in five regions, according to a project brief from the PPP Center.

The contract was awarded to the Consortium of BSP & Co., Inc. and Vicente T. Lao Construction as well as Megawide Construction Corp. in September and October 2013, respectively.

Meanwhile, the PSIP’s P16.43-billion first phase was awarded to Citicore Holdings Investment, Inc.-Megawide Construction Corp. and BF Corp.’s Bright Future Educational Facilities, Inc. on Oct. 8, 2012. It was completed in December 2015.

“PSIP-1 project sites were situated remotely from one another and the conditions of many sites were often very different from what was indicated in the appraisal report,” Megawide explained in January.

The listed contractor pointed out that weather conditions were a “significant cause of delay.”

“Typhoon season often forced us to stop operations because of flooding and landslides. We used a number of creative methods to ensure that each classroom was built with the same structural integrity no matter how hard accessibility was: we built roads in some areas, worked with the tide on island locations, removed obstructions and adapted each classroom to the conditions of the locality,” Megawide added.

The company has yet to respond to requests for comment as of this writing.

The 9,296 classrooms under PSIP Phase 1 were built in Ilocos Region, Central Luzon, as well as the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon growth cluster. These will benefit more than 400,000 students.

So far, contracts for 12 PPP projects cumulatively worth some P217.4 billion have been awarded since the flagship program was launched in the third quarter of 2010, or at the start of the term of the current administration.

Aside from the PSIP Phases 1 and 2, these are the P1.72-billion Automatic Fare Collection System, P2.01-billion Daang Hari-SLEx Link Road (Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway) Project, the P2.50-billion Southwest Integrated Transport System (ITS) Project, the P4-billion ITS South Terminal Project, the P8.69-billion Modernization of Philippine Orthopedic Center project (whose contract winning bidder Megawide Construction Corp. terminated the deal in November last year), the P15.86-billion second phase of the NAIA Expressway Project, the P17.52-billion Mactan-Cebu International Airport Passenger Terminal Building, the P24.4-billion Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project, the P55.51-billion Cavite-Laguna Expressway and the P64.9-billion LRT-1 Cavite Extension and Operation & Maintenance project.

16 May 2016
By Daphne J. Magturo