[Vantage Point] Bug and rodent infestation in NAIA: Why aren’t we surprised?

Val A. Villanueva

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[Vantage Point] Bug and rodent infestation in NAIA: Why aren’t we surprised?
Buy new chairs? No! The San Miguel-led consortium should be given a free hand to keep or take in new businesses based on its own master plan.

On March 18, the contract to rehabilitate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) between the government and the San Miguel Consortium will be signed, sealed and delivered. Three months after and, if plans don’t miscarry, the consortium will take over the operations and maintenance of the globally maligned airport.

Between now and the signing date, it seems that there is a maddening rush to extend the contracts of airport concessionaires and service providers, with some of these concessionaires securing contracts for up to 2027. It certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth for the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) to decide for San Miguel which businesses to partner with. The consortium should be given a free hand on whether these businesses are to be taken in, based on its own master plan on how it will nurture the airport for the next 15 years or more.

Vantage Point was able to peek into the draft concession agreement between San Miguel and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) where, under section 6.8.5, the government agrees to “undertake not to renew or extend any project agreement … that has a term extending beyond 180 days from the Signing Date.”

This means that the contracts which NAIA’s concessionaires and service providers signed with MIAA are good only up to the end of September this year. They would have to renegotiate with San Miguel whether they would be retained. It would be totally unfair for San Miguel if MIAA vets businesses the consortium has to partner with in its behalf. Extending their business life even for just 3 years would effectively tie the hand of the NAIA’s private contractor.

New chairs? No!

MIAA general manager Eric Jose Castro Ines was quoted in the newspapers as saying that his agency is thinking of procuring new chairs to replace the rattan chairs which were infested by bed bugs. I beg you not, sir! Malicious minds might wrongly accuse you of planting those bugs for you and your people to earn a quick buck.

Weeks before rodents were seen roaming around NAIA, a proposal to renew the P213,027,827.35 housekeeping contract of Dearjohn Services Inc. was sent to the MIAA for approval to the tune of P264,617,898.54. Do we smell a rat here? Again, malevolent tongues inside NAIA are telling us that this could well be a solution before the problem. has also reported that MIAA is bidding out three contracts totaling almost P130 million for maintenance and infrastructure upgrades at the NAIA complex. A P60-million maintenance contract funded by the 2024 MIAA budget is open for bidding until March 14th, 2024, with a one-year duration. A P52.4-million deal aims to replace and upgrade the powerhouse’s control system (This project has a contract length of 180 days). The P17.5-million contract, on the other hand, seeks to set up a wildlife dispersal and warning system. This particular auction opens on March 21 with a 90-day delivery period.

Why the rush? Wouldn’t it be prudent for MIAA to let the San Miguel consortium address the airport’s maintenance needs in accord to its masterplan? What if these projects remain unfinished before San Miguel’s takeover?

Vantage Point has tried multiple times to contact Ines on the phone numbers he provided us with, but he has not taken any of our calls.

As shown in the table below, MIAA has 28 concessionaires, with contracts that should be left to the new NAIA operator to manage.

I cannot figure out why social media is so fascinated with a pest-infested NAIA. It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. After all, the airport has been left to rot by previous administrations. Its state of despair is caused by decades of neglect and the inept who used to run it. Who knows? It could also be harboring snakes and other animals which love to seek refuge in a damp and dark abode.

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When the airport team of DOTr head Jaime Bautista took over, they initiated changes in airport personnel. But we all know what happened to the MIAA’s former general manager who was imprudently kicked out of office by the Ombudsman. A young, energetic and idealistic OIC, Bryan Co, took over Cesar Chiong’s place, only to be replaced later on by Ines, upon the orders of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

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Anomalous projects

One of the first acts of the new MIAA administrator was to rehire or reinstate key people under the pre-Chiong administration of former MIAA head Ed Monreal:

Rehired: Raul Austria, former chief of staff and chairman, Bids and Awards Committee (BAC); Atty. Randy Buenaventura, former Head Executive Assistant of Monreal; Lito de Lara, former Action Officer.

It was during Austria’s watch as BAC Chair when there were allegedly anomalous awarding of projects. (Read the CY 2021 MIAA Annual Audit Report issued by the Commission on Audit (COA) which can be downloaded at the COA website.)

Questionable awards of multi-million projects were made by resorting to the following:

  • Revision or rigging of eligibility requirements to ensure that only favored contractors will qualify to bid: For example, the 700 million Maintenance of the Baggage Handling System (BHS) at NAIA 3 was awarded to MSV Construction Inc. despite numerous eligibility issues, foremost of which is that MSV is not the appointed exclusive distributor of BHS parts. Result: Frequent breakdown of Terminal 3’s BHS for years now due to poor maintenance and inability to procure parts since MSV was not recognized by the exclusive distributor of BHS parts. 
  • Tailor fitting of project specifications to ensure that a favored contractor will bag the project or meet the specifications in the approved Terms of Reference: The BAC still awarded the project even if the favored bidder submitted a sample with inferior specs vs the approved specs. Result: Delivery of equipment that did not comply with the approved specs which the end-users were forced to accept without question. Those who refused to “cooperate” were put on floating status or assigned to not-so-desirable positions like Terminal 4 or General Aviation. Removed from the BAC were members of the Technical Working Group (TWG) – a group of technical, financial, or legal experts who were tapped to help the BAC with the technical aspects of the bid process – who refused to follow illegal orders.

Reinstated: Arlene Britanico was reinstated to her former position as assistant general manager for Finance and Administration (AGMFA) and Mario Villalobos, reinstated to Manager of Personnel Division. Note that these people were previously removed from their respective offices for committing various acts of corruption.

These are compelling reasons Britanico should not have been reinstated as AGMFA:

  1. She has four cases with the Ombudsman (OMB) pending investigation involving the following:
  • Payment of P100 million to PNCC in CY 2019 without securing Board approval for the payment and fund source thereof which constitutes technical malversation of funds: This involves the payment to PNCC of alleged Unpaid Services in the Construction of MIA Development Project. A case was filed in CY 2019 involving corruption and possibly plunder due to the amount involved, but this is still under investigation by the Ombudsman to date.  There was no preventive suspension issued by the Ombudsman, despite Britanico’s access to records which can lead to destruction of evidence.
  • Accomplice to the illegal subleasing of a 3,000 sqm prime property at NAIA Terminal 3 to Air Asia Phils.: MIAA leased 3000 sqm at T3 to Cruzville Realty at 2.4M per month. The owner of Cruzville is the son-in-law of Atty Boller, then head executive assistant of Monreal. Cruzville then subleased the area to Air Asia Phils., reportedly at P5.5 million per month. Britanico was one of those who facilitated the transaction and effected the refund of the P10-million rental deposit to Cruzville without requiring an audit of Cruzville’s gross receipts which should have been the basis for concession privilege fees (CPF) paid to MIAA. This is now a full-blown case, as the respondents in the letter to Ombudsman were required by the Ombudsman to file their counter-affidavit. 
  • Grave abuse of authority, grave misconduct and oppression filed by MIAA personnel Fe Dizon
  • lll-gotten wealth

Britanico still has pending cases involving four charges requested by then MIAA Director Leoncio Nakpil to be investigated by the MIAA Board. 

None of Britanico’s cases have been resolved to date. This makes me wonder why an anonymous complaint in March 2023 about the reassignment of personnel at NAIA led to a case filed against then GM Chiong and his designated AGMFA Irene Montalbo. This was resolved with undue haste by the Ombudsman with a preventive suspension issued on May 2, 2023, and just five months later, on August 1, 2023, resulted in Chiong and Montalbo’s dismissal from government service with forfeiture of their retirement benefits.

Unhappy Aboitiz

The Aboitiz group is not too happy about how the government conducted the public-private partnership project (PPP), specifically on the bidding for NAIA. Aboitiz’s MIAC lost that project. 

Aboitiz InfraCapital Inc. (AIC) president and CEO Cosette Canilao assailed the DOTr before members of the British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines. Canilao said that the Transportation Department gave importance to the highest government revenue share over minimizing subsidies.

“The moment the bid parameter becomes the revenue share, that creates a lot of issues. Something that the government can probably reconsider in other projects, it needs to understand again that PPP is an infrastructure development tool, not a revenue raising scheme,” Canilao ranted.

Vantage Point graph: SMC’s project cost in the first six years, P71.7 million; total project cost, P123.5 billion; concession period, 25 years; terminal capacity 62 million pax; guaranteed air traffic management, 48 ATM; bid amount, 82.16%; government share P831.1 billion in 25 years (nominal amount); upfront payment, P30 billion; fixed payment, P50 billion (annuities); total government share, P911.11 billion. Note that disqualified bidder Asian Airport Consortium’s bid of P848.8 billion with a bid amount of 76% almost snatched the deal from SMC. However, Asian Airport failed to meet the technical proposals and terms of reference for the project.

The decision as to the bid parameter is evaluated per project basis. There is no one size fits all in designing bid parameters. 

NAIA is a mature brownfield asset with a long operating history. It is only appropriate for government to seek a revenue share as the bid parameter. 

In fact, this was hailed by other bidders as highly bankable. 

It’s not too bad that MIAC’s bid was lowest among the three qualified bidders. What is more telling is that MIAC’s proposed revenue share in this solicited bid was five times more than their Unsolicited (Unso in the graph) proposal.

It looks like everything is set for the long-delayed NAIA rehabilitation, as long as the project remains free from lawsuits threatened to be filed by a losing bidder, as bruited about in coffee shops. –

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