Sunday, March 12, 2006


Sy to convert Mandurriao airport to commercial center

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MALL King Henry Sy is reportedly interested in buying the old domestic airport in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.
Reports from the Department of Finance (DoF) and the City Hall said Sy, owner of the SM Prime Holdings, plans to convert the old airport site into a business complex.
DoF sources said Sy wants to annex the airport lot to his existing property at Barangay Bolilao, Mandurriao on which SM City-Iloilo stands.
Earlier reports said the Ayalas, who are responsible for transforming Makati City from a grassland to the country’s financial capital, is also moving to acquire the Mandurriao airport.
The 60-hectare airport lot is worth at least P12billion, according to DoF and City Hall assessment.
The DoF is now at the helm of an asset privatization group that will dispose the 6-hectare Mandurriao airport once the new Iloilo airport of international standards at Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area is operational.
The team is composed of representatives from the Department of Transportation and Communications, Department of Justice, Department of Budget and Management and Air Transportation Office (ATO).
The group also hired the services of a good consultant firm CB Richard Ellis, the same company that assisted the Clark and Fort Bonifacio Conversion Authorities.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas was elated upon hearing the said development saying the Mandurriao airport site will become the new growth area in the city.
According to the 2005 World's Richest People list of Forbes magazine, Henry Sy is the wealthiest man in the Philippines and the 355th in world.
With a net worth of $1.9 billion, Sy is also one of the respected taipans of Asia.
Acknowledged as the country’s Retail King, Henry Sy, Sr. has come a long way from the modest shoe store he set up in Quiapo in 1946 to the country’s biggest chain of shopping malls.
In recognition of his entrepreneurial excellence, Henry Sy, Sr. has been named Management Man of the Year by the Makati Business Club and was conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Business Management by De La Salle University.
Committed to uplift the lives of his less fortunate countrymen, he organized the SM Foundation Inc., which helps underprivileged but promising young Filipinos.
SM, which is the trademark of his businesses names, came from the abbreviations of 'Shoe Mart'. Several of his children now manage the majority of his holdings, although he still maintains some degree of control over the businesses, especially the SM malls and the Banco de Oro Universal Bank. He is also a stockholder in the China Banking Corporation.
SM Malls has consistently been cited and awarded as one of the Philippines best managed companies. The SM City is the biggest in Asia and the third largest in the world. The SM Mall of Asia, which is built in the reclamation area of Pasay City in the Philippines, will be considered the largest mall in the world when built.

WVSUMC docs to drag Guerra to Ombud

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

CONCERNED doctors at the West Visayas State University Medical Center (WVSUMC) are willing to risk their careers by filing administrative and criminal cases against their medical chief and the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members who approved the P135-million deal with Himex Corporation.
Speaking in behalf of his colleagues at the WVSUMC, Dr. Louie Tirador said they are now coordinating with the People’s Graftwatch of Iloilo headed by Msgr. Meliton Oso for the filing of charges against WVSUMC director Dr. Ramon Guerra.
Tirador, a cardiologist at the WVSUMC, said he and the other complainants are putting their careers at stake by going up against Guerra.
“Dr. Guerra is a very powerful man. He can always cancel our admitting privileges without any justification since he is medical director. But we cannot stand anymore what is happening at the hospital anymore,” Tirador said.
Tirador and other medical practitioners at the WVSUMC are questioning the five-year rent-to-own deal between Guerra and Himex to procure two ultrasound, two x-ray and one CT scan machines worth P135million.
The complainants alleged that Guerra and the BAC violated procurement laws by resorting to direct contracting instead of the usual competitive bidding.
They also find the transaction disadvantageous to the hospital since there are other suppliers who can offer the same package of diagnostic machines at a lower price.
The clamoring doctors do not believe that revenues from the use of the said machines will be enough for the rent in the next five years.
“The CT scan Himex is offering is worth more than P70million when St. Paul’s Hospital bought the same machine with a different brand at P50million,” the complainants said.
Tirador said they cannot keep their silence anymore on the practices of the hospital administration in buying equipment
“I dare Dr. Guerra to prepare for we will drag him to the Ombudsman. You went beyond bounds, so be it,” Tirador said.
With the issue reaching media attention, the WVSUMC Board of Regents (BoR) decided to hold in abeyance the Himex deal pending evaluation of the Office of the Solicitor General.
In several media interviews, Guerra said they did not conduct any bidding for the five machines and just accepted Himex’s rent-to-own scheme per approval of the BAC and the BoR.
Guerra said only Himex offered the rent-to-own package for the five machines thus there was no need for a public bidding.
But based on the documents released by the complainants, the WVSUMC also entered into a similar scheme with supplier Medikotek Inc. for the purchase of defibrillators and patient monitors.
When asked if he released an invitation to bid for the CT scan, x-ray and ultrasound machines, Guerra answered they did not invite other suppliers.
Guerra defended the deal saying the BoR approved the transaction. He also pointed to the legal opinion of Atty. Norman Posecion, WVSU legal counsel, who also approved the transaction.
In an earlier interview with The Guardian, Department of Budget and Management assistant regional director Alfonso Bedonia said there must be at least two failed biddings before the procuring agency can resort to alternative methods like direct contracting.

Treñas goes after delinquent GOCCs to build new city hall

By Jeehan V. Fernandez

THE Iloilo City Government is bent on collecting unpaid tax dues of several state-run corporations to finance the construction of a new city hall building.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas said they expect to collect a total of P103 million in real property taxes from government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) by end of 2006.
Records from the City Treasurers Office show that Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) still owes the city government some P38million while the Fishing Port Development Authority’s (FPDA) tax arrears has reached P57million.
The Air Transportation Office’s (ATO) unpaid real property tax amounted to P6.1million while the National Irrigation Administration (NIA-6) has P1.3 million.
Iloilo City Treasurer Katherine T. Tingson said the projected arrears were computed until December 2006.
Some of the said agencies, particularly the PPA, have pending cases with the city government over their tax dues although Treñas said the The GOCCs’ respective corporate councils agreed to fulfill their tax dues.
Treñas added he has started discussing plans for the construction of a new City Hall with architect Willie Coscolluela, the same designer of the structural lay-out of the new provincial capitol.
The mayor added that City Councilors were also involved in the planning sessions.
“The construction of the new City Hall will depend on when the plan will be finalized as well as the availability of funds. We really need a new building that will house City Government offices,” Trenas told reporters yesterday.
Earlier, Kagawad Perla Zulueta said Ilongga Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago pledged some P200million for the construction of a new city hall government on a five-hectare lot along M.H. del Pilar Street in Molo district.
Zulueta said the previous administration already used P40million of the Santiago fund, P17million of which was used for the construction of the main structure and P23million to fill the lot which is an abandoned fishpond.
The Office of the City Mayor and other departments under the executive are housed in a dilapidated building in front of Plaza Libertad while the Sangguniang Panlungsod is located on the second floor of the Iloilo City Terminal Market.
The Treñas administration began its “tax collection crusade” with the PPA after the Supreme Court ruled that government firms must pay taxes to the local government units where their properties are located.
Treñas said the 2003 decision is a “leading case” in the country after the Local Government Code of 1991 lifted the exemption of state-run corporations from paying real property taxes.

Former LMP exec hoodwinked Iloilo mayors

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

ONCE is enough, twice is too much.
Romeo Jesmon Labramonte, the former League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP)-Iloilo chapter executive director, tried to dissuade LMP officials from filing estafa charges against him for allegedly embezzling almost P500,000 of the group’s funds.
Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul “Boboy” Tupas, LMP president, confirmed that Labramonte even offered a land title as guarantee that he will return the P441,459 he took from the LMP account with the Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB).
The LMP lodged estafa charges against Labramonte with the Iloilo City Prosecutor’s Office the other day with Tupas and Maasin Mayor Mariano Malones, LMP treasurer, complainants.
Despite Labramonte’s appeal and display of good faith, Tupas said the LMP executive committee to sue the former executive director as a form of punitive action.
Tupas said they discovered Labramonte’s alleged anomaly in January when the latter failed to submit financial reports to the LMP. They later discovered that their actual balance with the PVB amounted to more than P240,000 instead of P700,000.
By January 24, the LMP requested the PVB to put on hold all transactions until Labramonte has settled their finances.
As executive director, Labramonte managed the daily operations of the LMP, including projects, programs and supplies of the organization.
Tupas said they later found out that Labramonte, said to be a nephew of Lambunao Mayor Ignacio Ramirez, padded six LMP checks thus the discrepancy between the vouchers and the amount withdrawn from PVB.
“In one check which actually amounted to P1,394, he inserted the figure 8 in the beginning, making the P81,394. In another check which should have amounted to P5,000 only, he inserted the number 6 making it P65,000. He also tampered the amount in words by leaving spaces in the beginning and end of the sentence and insert the number he wants,” Tupas said.
As a matter of practice, banks advise check holders to put markings, mostly asterisks or lines, in the beginning and end of the amount to avoid tampering.
Tupas said they trusted Labramonte because of his dedication to the organization.
“We just want to put things in proper perspective that is why we filed this case,” Tupas said.
But the mayor denied reports that Labramonte is nowhere to be found as the latter is just in Iloilo City.

WVSUMC-BAC seeks Sol-Gen
opinion on P135M transaction

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the West Visayas State University Medical Center (WVSUMC) has decided to postpone the purchase of P135million worth of diagnostic equipment from Himex Corp. after several doctors and members of the Board of Regents (BoR) questioned the deal.
Sources from the WVSUMC said the BAC chaired by Dr. Anna Victoria Sombong met Monday at the Iloilo Business Inn on Rizal Street, Iloilo City to discuss the issue.
They later came out with a resolution postponing the deal, which involved the purchase of CT scan, x-ray and ultrasound machines, while waiting for the legal opinion of the Office of the Solicitor-General (OSG).
The BAC had also submitted an explanation to the BoR as regards the transaction entered into by Dr. Ramon Guerra, WVSUMC director.
Despite efforts to get their comments yesterday, Guerra and Sombong continued to be inaccessible to the media.
Sombong’s staff at the Laboratory Department said she was absent but Guerra’s office said they were in the middle of a conference.
Dr. Lourdes Arañador, WVSU president, is presently in Manila.
In a complaint to the BoR, WVSUMC doctors assailed the Himex deal as overpriced by more than P50million and did not undergo competitive bidding.
Rep. Ferjenel Biron, who also received a set of documents from the complainants, said he is planning to initiate a House probe on the issue.
Did the WVSUMC-BAC follow government procurement rules to the hilt as regards the Himex deal?
Alfonso Bedonia, Department of Budget and Management assistant regional director, said that under Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act), there must be at least two failed biddings before a government agency resorts to alternative methods of procurement such as direct contracting.
In the case of the Himex deal, the BAC, through Resolution No. 34 dated November 8, 2005, declared the July 21, 2005 bidding a failure after the sole bidder for an x-ray machine did not comply with technical requirements.
The committee then recommended the direct contracting with Himex for a package of “Various Radiologic Diagnostic Equipment” since one of the existing x-ray machines of WVSUMC was malfunctioning.
“Under our procurement rules, the procuring agency can only resort to alternative mode of procurement if the first and second bidding failed. But if the agency has satisfied the requirements for a direct contracting, then they can dispense with the bidding and negotiate with the supplier,” Bedonia said.
Under RA 9184, government agencies can only resort to direct contracting “if the required equipment or services are highly specialized and technical and if there is only one distributor or manufacturer who can supply the equipment.”
Although the procuring office is allowed to spell out the specifications for the needed equipment or service, “there must be no reference to any brand name.”
“The agency must be careful in laying down the specifications without being partial to a certain brand,” Bedonia said.
But Bedonia said it has been the practice of some procuring agencies to limit the specifications of the equipment to that of a certain brand, thus opening the transaction to possible anomalies and irregularities.
“Limiting the specifications to a certain brand is one way of circumventing the law. It has been a practice of many local government units and government agencies. Maybe by experience, they already know that a certain brand work is better than other brands. Or maybe they have other reasons aside from that,” Bedonia said.

Guerra refuses to answer overpricing issue;
Biron wants House probe on P135M deal

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

OFFICIALS of West Visayas State University Medical Center (WVSUMC) are mum on the alleged irregularities in the purchase of medical equipment worth P135million even as an Ilonggo solon threatened to initiate a congressional inquiry on the controversy.
The staff of Dr. Ramon Guerra Jr., WVSUMC director, said their boss will not talk to the media regarding the issue for the meantime.
Aside from The Guardian, Guerra also refused to face a local TV network to answer the issues thrown at him by WVSUMC medical personnel.
Dr. Lourdes Arañador, WVSU president and Board of Regents (BoR) member, was also not available for comments on the issue.
Guerra earned flak from WVSUMC doctors and personnel who were questioning the rent-to-own scheme with Himex Corporation, a supplier of medical equipment, to buy a CT scan, x-ray machines, ultrasound machines worth P135million.
The complainants are questioning why Guerra and the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) used the direct contracting mode of procurement when there are other suppliers aside from Himex that can supply the equipment at cheaper prices.
They cited the package of CT scan and ultrasound machines which St. Paul’s Hospital bought for only P50million compared Himex’s offer of more than P73million for the CT scan alone. By their reckoning, the complainants said the transaction is overpriced by P50million.
The complainants said Guerra limited the brand and specifications of the equipment to Himex’s proposal to have a basis for direct contracting with the said firm.
The complainants added that Guerra did not consult the department heads and end-users of the equipment and directly negotiated with Himex.
But a BAC member who refused to be identified said they have submitted an explanation to the BoR as regards the transaction.
The procurement of the equipment is part of the completion of WVSUMC’s Out-Patient Department Complex.
Guerra even proposed to the WVSU BoR to borrow P150million from the Development Bank of the Philippines to buy the equipment.
Meanwhile, Iloilo fourth district Representative Ferjenel Biron said he is planning to file a resolution at the House of Representatives to investigate the controversy.
Biron, an alumnus of the WVSU School of Medicine, also lambasted Guerra and the BAC for not following the procedures of Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act), particularly the use of the direct contracting mode.
While overpricing in the transaction has yet to be established, Biron said it is highly questionable for Guerra and the BAC not to conduct public bidding for equipment which can be bought from various suppliers aside Himex.
“Under RA 9184, the default process of procurement is thorough a competitive public bidding. Direct contracting can only be used when the required equipment is sophisticated or highly technical that only limited companies can supply them. From what I know, there are many firms that can provide CT scans, ultrasounds and x-ray machines at lower prices,” Biron said.
The neophyte solon also found the deal as disadvantageous to WVSUMC. “Based on the computed actual revenue from the use of the new equipment, WVSUMC will only earn P100million. If the cost of the equipment is P135million payable in five years under the rent-to-own scheme, WVSUMC is still short by more than P30million. Where will they get that shortage to pay the machines?”
Since the rent-to-own scheme requires a bank guarantee on the part of WVSUMC, Biron added the hospital will pay higher interest rates should it decide to take Himex’s offer.
Biron also fears that WVSUMC patients who are mostly from middle to lower class families will shoulder the burden of paying the equipment.
“It is not advisable for government hospitals to have sophisticated machines with value added features because that would mean added cost which will eventually be passed on to the patients,” he said.
Biron is mulling to ask either the House committees on good government or higher education to investigate the WVSUMC-Himex deal and another transaction entered into by the hospital with Medikotek Inc.
“Or I can also ask the Commission on Higher Education to look into the matter since WVSUMC is attached to the state university,” Biron said.
Biron is also wondering why Arañador has not been keen on watching over Guerra’s deals despite her position as WVSU president.


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