Change of Ucris rehab contractor sought
THIS EARLY, may we call the attention of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to the much-delayed rehabilitation of the Upper Chico River Irrigation System (Ucris). Because of the delay, the company behind this project, Markbilt Construction/RD Policarpio and Co. Inc. (Markbilt), is seeking to have its contract extended by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) for 258 days.
On behalf of our respective organizations—the Kalinga-Apayao Religious Sector Association (an organization of churches in the area) and the Tabuk Multi-Purpose Cooperative (90 percent of whose 12,000 members depend, in various degrees, on ricelands for their livelihood)—we express our vehement objection to the extension of the contract on the following grounds:
- Under its work schedule, Markbilt was supposed to have installed the intake gates of the irrigation system by June 2014. Despite appeals and demands from the Ucris-Federation of Irrigators Association (FIA) and the Kalinga Irrigation Management Office (Kimo) of the NIA, the gates were installed only in December 2015, a delay of more than one year. Because of the delay, when the Chico River swelled due to rains dumped by Typhoon “Ineng” on Aug. 20, 2015, a 256-meter portion of the main canal was washed out. It took four months to repair, for which the NIA spent P100 million. Also, Ucris farmers missed the second cropping of 2015 and lost P1-billion worth of crops.
- In a meeting held Sept. 2, 2015, after the washout, with Markbilt’s slippage already at 57 percent and its accomplishment just 34 percent, the company promised to accomplish the remainder of the work by Dec. 21, 2015, its contract’s date of expiry. But between Sept. 2 and Dec. 21, when the canals were dry due to the repair of the washout, Markbilt managed to do only 5 percent of its work. With the extension of the World Bank’s Participatory Irrigation Development Program up to March 21, 2016, it could have finished the project but it barely accomplished another 5 percent of the project. Given Markbilt’s record, we doubt if it could complete the project within the extension period it is requesting.
We have to bring the matter to the incoming President’s attention because the outgoing administration has not done anything about the problem despite our pleas.
We appeal to President-elect Duterte: Please cause the immediate recision of Markbilt’s contract and let a competent contractor take over the rehab project.
There could be no other explanation for the delay of the project except criminal negligence or incompetence, irresponsible management/supervision, or even fraud—and this has caused so much damage on the lives of the project’s target beneficiaries. Markbilt does not deserve a minute of extension; it deserves to be punished instead. However, we are concerned: Markbilt’s friends at the NIA might just extend its contract in a “midnight deal” before the Duterte administration assumes office.
We also call for an investigation into the possible role (negligence or collusion) of the present NIA administrator, Florencio Padernal, in the delay of the project. Kimo constantly updated him on the project’s progress and Ucris-FIA repeatedly asked him to terminate the contract due to the massive slippage.
—FR. CLAUDIO L. BAGANO, chair, Kalinga-Apayao Religious Sector Association; CARMELITA T. AYANG-ANG, vice chair, Tabuk Multi-Purpose Cooperative
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