MANILA, Philippines – It’s back to the “Swiss Challenge” scheme for the P18-billion (US$411 million) toll road connecting the North and South Luzon Expressways.
The “Swiss Challenge” could take at least 3 months, said Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson.
“If it goes back to DPWH, we need to go through Swiss Challenge with a minimum of 90 days for competing proposal,” Singson said in a text message.
The NLEX-SLEX connector toll road was originally proposed by infrastructure company Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC).
The decision to go through Swiss Challenge was made after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima issued an opinion that the joint venture between MPIC’s Metro Pacific Tollways Development Corporation (MPTDC) and state-run Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) is illegal.
“We received the DOJ opinion, and essentially, the direction is to go back to the unsolicited proposal and Swiss Challenge,” said Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.
It’s now up to DPWH to bid out the road project, he added.
The “Swiss Challenge” can take 3 to 10 months from the publication of the Invitation to Bid to the awarding of the project. Under the process, the original proponent of the unsolicited proposal has the right to match the highest bid.
In August 2012, the government was supposed to undertake the “Swiss Challenge” process. But the DOTC recommended that MPTDC enter into a joint venture agreement with PNCC to speed up the process.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion, dated July 7, expressed that the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board chaired by President Benigno Aquino III should not have approved the joint venture agreement for the road project.
The NEDA board greenlighted the amendment or extension of an existing joint venture between MPTDC and PNCC as well as the supplemental toll operations agreement to cover the extension of the franchise of NLEX under Presidential Decree No 1894.
In a 68-page letter to the DOTC, De Lima wrote “the NEDA board approval appears to have been issued beyond its powers, and without factual basis or justification.”
She added that it would be contrary to good governance to suddenly convert an unsolicited proposal, which is about to be subjected to Swiss Challenge, into another mode of implementation by entering a joint venture agreement between the unsolicited proponent and the PNCC.
“Thus, any perception that piggybacking on the franchise of PNCC would, in any way, allow the unsolicited proposal of MPTDC to evade or circumvent the Swiss Challenge requirement or would allow it to obtain the contract without competitive challenge, is erroneous,” she emphasized.
MPIC agrees to subjecting its unsolicited connector road project proposal to a “Swiss Challenge.”
The NLEX-SLEX connector project was originally submitted to DPWH in May 2010 under the Build-Operate-Transfer Law.
The project will connect NLEX and SLEX via two roads. Segment 9, worth P1.9 billion ($43.3 million), will connect NLEX to MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela and should be complete this August.
Segment 10, worth P10 billion ($228.1 million) starts from the Mindanao Avenue exit of NLEX to North Harbor and should be complete by August 2015.
NLEX will be connected to the common alignment at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta Mesa to the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 project of diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corporation. – Rappler.com