Misamis Oriental

Mindanao’s first and only planetarium opens in Misamis Oriental

Franck Dick Rosete, Uriel Quilinguing

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Mindanao’s first and only planetarium opens in Misamis Oriental

RIBBON CUTTING. Government officials cut the ceremonial ribbon during the inauguration of the first planetarium in Mindanao in El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental, on May 17, 2024.

Franck Dick Rosete/Rappler

The El Salvador planetarium project is not without controversies. It was flagged by the Commission on Audit due to years of construction delays.

MISAMIS ORIENTAL, Philippines – The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) began accepting reservations for lectures and shows on Monday, May 20, at the first and only planetarium in Mindanao, located in El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental.

Officials said the P35-million El Salvador planetarium is the country’s most modern, and offers an exceptional virtual experience of the cosmos.

The planetarium, featuring an astronomical observatory, a dome-shaped projection theater displaying constellations, planets, and various astronomical phenomena, a gallery hall, and a conference room, occupies a 755-square-meter space within the Mindanao PAGASA Regional Division (MPRSD) compound in Barangay Molugan, El Salvador City.

SCIENCE GIANTS. An attendee during the inauguration of the first planetarium in Mindanao in El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental, on May 17, 2024, looks at the portraits of famous scientists displayed outside the planetarium chamber. Franck Dick Rosete/Rappler

The Department of Science and Technology-PAGASA inaugurated the planetarium on Friday, May 17, five years after a groundbreaking ceremony. Gracing the inaugural ceremony were Science and Technology Secretary Renato Solidum Jr. and local officials in Misamis Oriental.

Misamis Oriental 2nd District Representative Yevgeny Vincente Emano said the new planetarium would serve as a local economic driver, bringing people from other parts of Mindanao to Misamis Oriental.

“Imagine, six regions [in Mindanao] will now be coming to Misamis Oriental to bring their students to see what planetarium has to offer,” Emano said.

Anthony Joseph Lucero, MPRSD weather services chief, said the planetarium would serve as a science education hub, engaging people of all ages, especially students, by encouraging them to learn more about astronomy.

Solidum said they would see first how the planetarium in El Salvador would work before they proceed with plans to establish another one in Mindanao. 

He said they were working to inaugurate a similar planetarium project in Cebu tentatively this year.

PAGASA, through the Astronomy Research and Development Section (AsRDS) and Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Space Sciences Branch (AGSSB), is operating a 47-year-old planetarium at the PAGASA Science Garden in Quezon City. 

SHOW. People watch an astronomical show inside the new planetarium in El Salvador City in Misamis Oriental. Franck Dick Rosete/Rappler
Flagged by auditors

The El Salvador planetarium project is not without controversies. It had been flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA) due to construction delays.

In the 2022 COA Annual Audit Report, the then uncompleted planetarium project received a red flag because it was supposed to be completed by November 22, 2019. The project timeline indicated that the notice to proceed (NTP) was issued to the contractor, GCMG Construction, on March 28, 2019.

Delays were attributed to the procurement of construction materials such as tiles, glass, and acoustic boards, which could not be transported due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and were compounded by inclement weather.

The COA Report advised DOST-PAGASA to remind the contractor that the project was to be completed in 240 calendar days, as provided in the NTP, but the actual construction work started on February 27, 2020. 

The contractor, according to the COA, managed to secure work extension approvals five times, on June 2, 2021; August 12, 2021; December 3, 2021; May 6, 2022; and April 6, 2023.

State auditors also noted that the contractor was already paid over P32.024 million of the P15.82 million set aside for the total project cost for the actual performance and satisfactory completion of 91.36% of the contract. 

When a team of auditors conducted an ocular inspection sometime in 2022, there were no workers at the project site, showed the COA report..

“Considering that this is a design and build project, the design phase is an integral part of the project and must be included in the contract period. For any excess hereof without the approved request for extension, the contractor shall be charged with liquidated damages,” read part of the report.

Lucero said that other than the reasons cited in the COA report, a major factor for the delay of the project completion was that the wife of the contractor got sick and died. –Rappler.com

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