Press Release
September 17, 2012

Collusion among Malacañang, Cabinet officials eyed in P111B bridge program

Sen. Serge Osmeña today alleged former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo orchestrated a "serial plunder" that allowed her and her cohorts to overprice by tens of billions the P111 billion President's Bridge Program.

The P111 billion is the total amount of 14 bridge contracts that were misrepresented as having been funded through Official Development Assistance (ODA) concessional financing from such countries like the UK and France.

"The NBN-ZTE telecom and North Rail contracts pale in comparison with the GMA bridge contracts. The ZTE contract amounted to P13.7 billion and the North Rail contract amounted to P21 billion. These P111 billion serial scams are 8 times the ZTE contract and 5 times the North Rail contract," Osmeña said, as he asked the powerful Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to inquire into the highly-anomalous undertaking. "This is the grandmother of all scams," he stressed.

The senator exposed the former president and key officials from at least five government agencies as having formulated a highly complex scheme that pushed the costs of the bridges way beyond their market prices.

"Mrs. Arroyo must explain to the Filipino people these very anomalous series of contracts that they forged with foreign companies. She and her cohorts could be held liable for plunder because this involves P111 billion in people's money," he added.

The overpricing was disguised as "local expenses", averaging 16 percent to 21 percent of the total project cost. That amounts to roughly P20 billion which could have built all the classrooms that Filipino children had been needing so badly.

"Such a fee is big considering that each steel bridge is estimated by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)--and I think they were underestimating it--to cost around P560,000 per linear meter. But our concrete bridge costs only P240,000 per linear meter," Osmeña said, adding: "I'm now wondering why the Arroyo administration purchased the more expensive steel bridges. Even our Skyway in Metro Manila is made of concrete. The Filipino people would have spent only P50 billion instead of P111 billion if we had hired Filipino producers to build the same length of concrete bridges."

"The country has no steel industry to speak of, while our cement industry is booming. The former administration should have looked into this as concrete bridges are not only cheaper but would have also generated thousands of jobs and income for Filipinos as well as tax revenues for the government. Instead, GMA gave jobs to foreign workers whose salaries were 10 to 20 times more than the Filipino worker," he pointed out.

"It would interest our people to know that the government builds its skyways, flyovers and overpasses using pre-stressed concrete. Moreover, these steel bridges are now rusting in various depots all over the country," he said.

"Besides concrete bridges are easier to maintain compared to steel bridges, which has to be protected every year against rust. That's another cost for the government," he added.

Osmeña also noted there was collusion between government agencies to get every steel bridge project approved, exposing that there were no public biddings conducted and there was only one favored supplier for every bridge project.

Osmeña said Mrs. Arroyo was able to "misrepresent" the entire bridge program as an Official Development Assistance (ODA) project, which justified her government's decision to forego public bidding. Mrs. Arroyo even issued two Executive Orders (EOs) which overrode the provisions of the Government Procurement Act and other laws which mandate public bidding even for ODA-funded projects.

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