P455-m enough to finish City Hall – consultant

The wanton and needless revisions to the original plans for the new Iloilo City Hall caused its cost estimates to balloon from P455 million to P700 millon, the consultant to the project revealed on Sunday.

Conrado Goco, president of the Pacific Orient Consultants and Management Corp., said the original loan of the city from Land Bank would have been enough to get the controversial project completed and ready for occupancy.

But when City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog assumed office last June 30, he immediately began making revisions and changing the specifications, totally unmindful that he would burden the city government, and its taxpayers, with an additional P260 million just to satisfy his craving to build a City Hall that suited his extravagant tastes.

“Yes, the original P455 million is enough to finish the project,” Goco said yesterday on “Serbisyo Publiko”, the Sunday public affairs program of City Councilor Perla Zulueta on Sky/Sun Cable community channel 13. Zulueta had pressed Goco to state clearly whether the original loan was enough for the project.

The interview was carried live by all radio stations on paid airtime.

And what was intended as a public relations stunt to deflect the allegations of overpricing and profligate spending appears to have backfired on the Mabilog administration as Goco admitted all these revisions were made at the initiative of the local chief executive.

Goco said he was just carrying out the wishes of Mabilog in putting these proposed revisions on paper. Among others, he admitted that Mabilog had already picked a supplier for a P9-millon solar power package to supply the energy needs of his office. The company is the same supplier for the solar power package for his home, it was revealed.

The revelations horrified Zulueta, who noted that the project would cost a staggering P48,000 per square meter under the grandiose plans hatched by Mabilog.

“We have to realize the city government will have to pay P49 million in interest charges alone for the first three years of the repayment period,” Zulueta, who was visibly aghast over the extra P260 million in costs, remarked.

During the interview, Goco clarified that his statement several days ago about the construction costs for the New Iloilo Capitol building was taken out of context. The P27,000 per square meter that he mentioned for the Capitol project represented the total amount for the finished structure, he said. On the other hand, the unit cost of P25,000 per square meter for the City Hall covered only the bare structure, he added.

As the controversy continued to rage, Mabilog appears to have retreated from a hardline position by asking local architects to review the proposed revision and completion plans to check on the reasonableness of the costs.

Earlier, Mabilog had adopted a hardline position on the issue, insisting that the proposed plan was reasonable to make sure the City Hall “is the best in the country.” He wanted everything in the structure to be made of the highest quality, he said.

Mabilog also bared during the weekend he has scrapped the P9-million budget for the solar power package that he wanted incorporated into the building to demonstrate the “green” side of his administration. He also backpedaled on his proposal to buy the 3,063-sqm. Kerr and Company property beside the project to be used as parking spaces, saying it will be considered only “if necessary”.

Mabilog had wanted to ask for an additional P35 million to buy the Kerr and Company property but the proposal was quickly shot down by critics.

Zulueta, an ally of Mabilog, was vocal in expressing her opposition to the plan.

“The plan would have made it the most expensive parking area in the country,” Zulueta said.

The multi-term councilor who is known as the “Iron Lady” did her research and found out that a parking slot for small cars would cost P294,000 without even considering the development costs yet. The parking spaces for big-sized cars would cost P350,000 per slot, she added. (30)

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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