So far, the biggest likely overpriced project involving HCC is the P700-million Iloilo Convention Center (ICC), a pet project of Senate President Franklin Drilon. The convention center has been partly funded by Drilon’s Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – In the past few weeks senators have regaled mainstream media with their investigation into the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building, which was constructed under the watch of current Vice-President Jejomar Binay. But if the probe aims to showcase a sample of good governance at work, a youth lawmaker has challenged not just the senators but his fellow congressmen to investigate also the rest of government infrastructure projects cornered by the contractor used by Binay.
Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation (HCC) is the contractor in the Makati parking building being investigated by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
According to Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon, his group’s investigation unearthed many disturbing questions on HCC’s government projects. Last week, Rep. Ridon filed House Resolution 1466, urging the House Committee on Public Works and Highways to investigate in aid of legislation possible corruption and overpricing of government infrastructure projects contracted by local and national government officials with Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation (HCC). The resolution aims to determine and exact accountability.
Among Kabataan Partylist’s findings into HCC’s project with government, the following stands out:
• HCC won about 20 government infrastructure projects in the last decade. In some cities such as Iloilo and Makati, it clinched two or more projects, of which some became controversial for alleged corruption and overpricing.
• Aside from Makati parking building, HCC figured in the botched P550-million call center project of the Commission on Higher Education in 2007.
• So far, the biggest likely overpriced project involving HCC is the P700-million Iloilo Convention Center (ICC), a pet project of Senate President Franklin Drilon. The convention center has been partly funded by Drilon’s Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program. Its construction is being hurried in time for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in 2015.
• With a price tag of P700 million for a 6,400-sq.m infrastructure, the cost per square meter of the Iloilo Convention Center is P109,375.00/square meter, or 15 times that of the China Convention Center (another APEC venue), which costs $86.3 million [P3.76 billion], or $163 [P7,092] per square meter.
• The Iloilo Convention Center also costs more than the world-renowned Beijing National Stadium, or the ‘Bird’s Nest’ – the centerpiece of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which cost $423 million or P18.8 billion (in 2008 conversion rates). This translates to a P73,892 per square meter construction cost of the Bird’s Nest. [In current prices, the total construction cost of the Bird’s Nest is $463 million or P20.17 billion. Its inflation-adjusted per square meter cost is thus P79,216, or nearly 40-percent less than the Iloilo Convention Center.
• The P700 million construction cost of the Iloilo Convention Center is a staggering amount when compared to estimates of 2014 Davis Langdon & Seah Handbook on Construction Costs for a five-star luxury hotel, which is around P63,350- P77,800 per square meter, including amenities.
• The Iloilo Convention Center is four times the actual cost per square meter of the four-level SMX Convention Center in SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City. In current prices, the P26,400 construction cost per square meter of SMX Convention Center is only a quarter of the P109,375 cost per square meter of the Iloilo Convention Center.
• Comparing Iloilo Convention Center’s per square cost to Bird’s Nest’s, it appears overpriced by P191 million. Compared to the cost of SMX Convention Center, the Iloilo Convention Center appears overpriced by P531 million.
From a list presented in HR 1466, HCC was also the contractor behind several government infrastructures that became controversial for signs of corruption. These include:
• The P500-million Iloilo Capitol Building in early 2000
In 2005, then Iloilo Vice-Governor Roberto Armada reportedly called for a probe after finding structural defects such as hairline cracks on the façade of the building, barely two years after it was built.
• The P200 million contract for the construction of the Abra Provincial Hospital in 2010
The 170-bed capacity building stood on a total floor area of 5,498 square meters. It was finished past its deadline as the crib wall of the stonemasonry collapsed and structural defects showed when the province was hit by a storm in 2011.
• The controversial New Government Center (NGC) of Bacolod, constructed in 2010
The Commission on Audit said HCC failed to deliver the road construction works as specified in the contract. Its term of reference included perimeter road works, but even after City Mayor Evelio Leonardia and the Sangguniang Panglungsod (SP) had approved a P25-million appropriation for it, the Bacolod City Engineer’s office let HCC turn over the project without the perimeter road works.
House Resolution 1466 questions the repeated selection of HCC when it consistently racks up a record of anomalous projects. It warns that HCC is probably close to high-ranking officials and that it overprices government projects in exchange for the rigging of bidding processes by government officials.