By Junex Doronio
IF NOT FOR THE ZOOM that physically separated between Senators Risa Hontiveros and Pia Cayetano, nobody could predict what may happen in their heated exchange after the opposition senator floated a possible collusion in the construction of sports facilities in New Clark City that were used in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games organized and led by former Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano of Taguig-Pateros.
“‘Yang perang inutang ng MTD Berhad sa DBP, BCDA ang magbabayad sa halagang ₱11.1 billion. Wala na ngang cash-in ang Malaysian company pinatungan pa ng napakalaking interes at tubo ang perang sana ay sa iba na lang ginugol ng gobyerno,” Hontiveros blasted in a speech at the Senate on Tuesday.
Hontiveros aired that there might have been a “fake joint venture” between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority and Malaysian developer MTD Capital Berhad on the funding of structures amounting to ₱8.5 billion.
But Senator Pia rushed to rescue her brother, the erstwhile Speaker and 2019 30th Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee chair, and defended that the projects were built in honor of the country’s athletes, whom she said have long been using sub-par facilities.
“Kaya tuloy wala nang mag-aabalang magpatayo ng matitino at kahanga-hangang mga infrastructure dito sa Pilipinas dahil magpatayo ka lang ng maganda, sasabihin na sa iyo na may kalokohan ka,” Cayetano fumed.
Hontiveros maintained that the deal may have “side-stepped” bidding laws since MTD Capital Berhad borrowed ₱9.5 billion from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) just three weeks after the company agreed to join the project.
She bared that the loan was later paid off by the BCDA with interest using funds from the 2019 national budget.
Hontiveros also expressed apprehension that the sports facilities may also become a “white elephant.”
Cayetano retorted that the future athletes, “the future Manny Pacquiaos” will be trained there.
For its part, the BCDA said that the agreement with MTD Capital Berhad was reached legally and based on the advice of the Asian Development Bank with the approval of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.
“There was no undue advantage accorded to MTD Capital Berhad as its unsolicited proposal underwent a rigorous negotiation process and a Competitive Challenge,” the BCDA said in a statement.
“The joint venture agreement between BCDA and MTD passed the scrutiny of applicable Philippine laws, rules and regulations,” the statement further said.
It can be recalled that last month, the Commission on Audit (COA) questioned the BCDA’s approval of the multi-billion-peso project for the 30th SEA Games despite being disadvantageous to the government.
The BCDA also refuted that line.