By Abigail L. Ho
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines will start the bidding process later this month for contracts to operate two railways in the capital, part of a menu of more than $1 billion worth of projects to be offered to investors.

In a briefing Monday, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the first two projects to be placed on the auction block are the operations and maintenance contracts for the Light Rail Transit 1 and the Edsa Metro Rail Transit 3.

The bidding process for these two projects, he said, would start by end-March. Estimated project costs are P7.7 billion for the LRT 1 and P6.3 billion for the MRT 3.

Next month, the invitation to bid for the P1.6-billion Daang Hari-South Luzon Expressway link road project would be published, signaling the start of the bidding process.

The project involves construction of a 3.68-kilometer, four-lane paved toll road, plus two overpasses, four local roads, an undercrossing, a rotunda and drainage structures.

Next to be opened for bidding in May and June are the P10.6-billion Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2 and the P21-billion North Luzon Expressway-Slex connector road.

Almendras said the bidding process for these projects under the government’s flagship public-private partnership scheme would be shorter than build-operate-transfer projects in the past. Instead of the usual 12-month process to reach the level of the National Economic and Development Authority’s Investment Coordination Committee, it would only take three to four months for PPP projects.

“We’ve formed a bid group to address the challenges of delays caused by the bureaucracy. We’ll be holding consultation meetings even after the publication of the bid invitation. These meetings will be with those who have expressed interest in bidding for the projects,” he explained.

“We’ll speed up the process to get ICC approval faster. We won’t be cutting corners. With the old process, we discovered that a lot of the steps were sequential—you can’t go on to the next step without completing another. This time, we’ll do some steps simultaneously,” he added.

For the entire year, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said at least 10 major PPP projects would be scheduled for bidding. In addition to these big-ticket items, minor PPP projects would also be placed on the auction block.—With a report from Reuters