Diokno concerned with 'short' Swiss challenge period for Marawi rehab

MANILA, Philippines – During the last Cabinet meeting, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno expressed concerns about the 3-week period given for other developers to challenge the proposal of the China-led Bangon Marawi Consortium (BMC) for the rehabilitation of Marawi City.

Diokno thinks the time frame was too short for other interested companies to come up with a well-studied offer and could also be questioned by courts, according to two sources present at the Cabinet meeting last June 11.

The economic manager had a lengthy debate with Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Chairman Eduardo del Rosario, who is chairman of the Marawi rehabilitation task force.

Diokno, said the source, was of the opinion that 3 weeks was "too short a time for companies" and that a court could question the awarding of the project "if the period to challenge is unreasonable."

Del Rosario, however, was determined to stick to timelines as pressure is building for Marawi's speedy rehabilitation.

In the end, the housing czar said he would consult the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center, the office tasked with facilitating and monitoring government projects implemented with the private sector.

Del Rosario confirmed this in a message to Rappler: "I will refer the matter to [the] PPP Center."

How did Duterte contribute to the discussion on the matter? The source said the President only listened to both sides, as he usually does for technical matters to do with big-ticket contracts.

Diokno has yet to respond to Rappler for this story.

China-led consortium

BMC, composed of 5 Chinese companies and 4 Filipino companies, is poised to bag the contract worth billions of pesos to reconstruct Marawi's most affected area.

The consortium came under the spotlight when it was found that two of the Chinese companies were blacklisted by the World Bank in 2009.

Malacañang defended China State Construction Engineering Corporation and China Geo-Engineering Corporation, saying they deserve another chance. (READ: Chinese businessmen flock to Duterte's Malacañang)

A Swiss challenge allows other developers to present alternative proposals. But if the period given is too short, developers may not have enough time to consolidate a proposal to counter that of BMC.

Del Rosario, on June 8, said the Swiss challenge period was supposed to have started on June 12, or a day after the Cabinet meeting. 

At that time, "finishing touches" were being put on BMC's proposal, he said during a Palace press briefing. They had also planned for the groundbreaking to take place on July 5 or 6.

Asked why the timeline for the Swiss challenge kept changing – he had announced end-of-May dates before – Del Rosario said the government does not want to rush the rehabilitation.

"We don't want to rush things because otherwise, we can't take a good look at specifications or the quality of the infrastructure.... Negotiations are bloody. We do not want to compromise the quality as well as the cost. There has to be a balancing act," he said in Filipino. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.