The great ferry terminal robbery attempt

 Double Dragon Properties, Inc. is reportedly getting ready to mobilize its equipment and workers to start construction of the P135 million Parola Ferry Terminal project at the mouth of the Iloilo River. 

More than a year after the contract was signed between City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog and Ferdinand Sia, president of Double Dragon, the project proponents are attempting to sweep aside legal questions about the validity, and morality, of the deal.

Work on the project was supposed to start November 2012. But questions I raised about the contract, which were echoed by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Budget and Management, and several lawyers, forced the Mabilog administration to shelve it. Even the 2010-2013 city council, which had originally approved the contract, pulled the rug from under Mabilog’s feet, withdrawing the authority it issued to him to enter into the agreement. 

I also filed a criminal complaint against Mabilog and Double Dragon before the Ombudsman on the ground that the contract is lopsided and grossly disadvantageous to the city government and its taxpayers. The complaint is still undergoing investigation.

The project was already deemed dead in the water. In fact, Mabilog issued a statement in late November that it was no longer his priority.

For strange reasons, the project resurfaced almost on its own (or so it seems). It is now poised to proceed despite the glaring violations of the law. It is overflowing with corruption.

Less than two weeks after Mabilog said the project was no longer a priority, representatives of Double Dragon met with the City Council and explained why the city government was going to get a measly 1% for the first five years, with a 1% increase for every five years after that, until 25 years. The presentation was never disclosed to the public. But it must have been “convincing” enough to make the new set of the City Council to reverse the disavowal made by its predecessor.

The contract is fraught with irregularities that it can be considered the “grand mother of all anomalies” in Iloilo City.

  • The value of the city government’s contribution to the project is being buried alive. In a joint venture, the parties to a project pitch in their equity contributions, whether it be in cash, property or technical expertise. In this case, the value of the 1-hectare property on which the ferry terminal is supposed to be built has a minimum value of P300,000,000 (at a conservative P30,000 per square). On top of this, it was the national government that developed the modern ferry docking facility at the mouth of the Iloilo River known as “Parola”. Filipino taxpayers contributed P126 million for this Parola port. All in all, the government equity in the project is P426 million. So there can be no justification for the income sharing agreement in which the city government will get a measly 1% only for the first five years, 2% for the second five years, with a 1% increase every five years until it reaches 5% for the 20th to 25th years.
  • Second, the ferry terminal complex was given a price tag of P135 million. In case you haven’t noticed, nobody has seen the plans and specifications of the terminal building. How big will the terminal building be? How many floors will it have? What would be the facilities? For all we know, the terminal building will cost only P25 million, or even less! This is big fraud that Mabilog, with the backing of Senate President Franklin Drilon, is about to pull here. It is easy to see that the transaction will guarantee a fat income for Mabilog and Drilon for the next 25 years! This is corruption at its worst.
  • Third, the procurement for this contract did not adhere to the requirements of the law. As I have pointed out more than a year ago, the competitive bidding for Public-Private Partnership (PPP) contracts is governed by Republic Act No. 6957 as amended by Republic Act No. 7718 and its revised implementing rules and regulations. The Mabilog administration formulated its own guidelines by virtue of an ordinance which is not only irregular, illegal and anomalous, but downright ridiculous. Moreover, the project proposal did not undergo review by the National Economic Development Authority.

My sources at City Hall tell me that Mabilog was ordered by Drilon to insist on the project. This was the reason Double Dragon hastily met with the new set of the city council to persuade them to grant Mabilog authority to proceed. The new city council reversed the resolution of its predecessor. It conferred upon Mabilog a legally-infirm authority to go ahead with this anomalous deal.


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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