City Councilors on Monday grilled executive officials over the delay in the implementation of key city government infrastructure projects, including an estimated total of P1 billion in contracts awarded to one particular private contractor.

Councilor Elgin Damasco led an inquiry on the matter following a privilege speech, taking to task both the City Engineering Office (CEO) and the private contractor GSMAXX Construction for the delays.

During the questioning, a city official admitted that one project involving the construction of a new public market in Barangay Matahimik was awarded to GSMAXX. It was supposed to be completed during the second half of 2021 but was barely started, with a submitted accomplishment rate of only 3.04 percent.

Damasco blasted at GSMAXX for allegedly ignoring the Council’s invitation to appear during their regular Question Hour to shed light on the project delays.

“Dapat sana ‘yong mga contractor na pinatawag natin dito ay sumipot lalong lalo na itong may pinakamalaking hawak na proyekto. Dito sa listahan, umaabot sa mahigit P1 billion ang nakuha nilang proyekto sa city government of Puerto Princesa,” Damasco said.


Project delays

Engr. Julio Sergio of the City Engineering Office (CEO) said the construction of the public market was originally scheduled for completion on October 5, 2021, but has been delayed due to difficulties supposedly faced by their contractor including lack of manpower and supplies needed for the project.

Another project facing delay is a health center supposed to be completed in November in Barangay Sta. Monica but has not even started, or with zero accomplishment.

Sergio told the councilors the reason for the delay varies from lack of manpower to inadequate materials.

“’Yong mga dahilan ng contractor ay manpower at materyales. ‘Yon po ang laging ginagamit sa amin na reason kapag may suspension ng project dahil wala silang tao, walang materyales na mabibili. ‘Yong mga previous projects natin kahit ‘yong mga on-going ngayon gano’n din po ‘yong nagiging problema,” Sergio said.


Photos courtesy of City Mayor’s Office

Sergio added that the lack of materials, particularly steel that are being sourced from outside Palawan, led to the slow execution of the projects.

“Yong materyales po talaga ‘yong pa-unti unti ‘yong dating ng mga bakal nila. Number 1 kasi ‘yong mga bakal. D’yan talaga hirap na hirap ‘yong mga contractor na magpadala ng bakal dito sa Puerto Princesa,” Sergio added.

Damasco pointed out that GSMAXX in particular has already seven project that had been allowed extended deadlines, describing it as “worrisome”.

“Yan ang nakakabahala dahil pito ang kanilang project na hindi nila nasisimulan on time bahagi ng kanilang kontrata sa city government. Anong mangyayari sa mga projects natin kapag ganyan?” Damasco asked.

Councilor Peter Maristela pointedly asked city engineering officials if there are anomalies in the implementation of the projects. He also cited in particular Barangay Mandaragat Capt. Gerry Abad whom he claimed received “cash gift” from GSMAXX and even posted a photo of it on his Facebook account.

He pointed out Abad’s Facebook post dated December 27, 2020, showing him holding money supposedly given to him by GSMAXX president Sammy James Sioson.

“Sa atin naman [sa] mga taga-City Engineering, kayo ang nag-iinspeksyon ng mga projects ng GSMAXX, hindi rin ba kayo nakatanggap din ng tip?” Maristela asked.

Both GSMAXX and Abad were invited to attended the next session’s Question Hour to shed light on the issue.


Shipment problems

City Councilor Roy Ventura said that “big contractors” were not able to follow the project timelines, causing the delay of most projects in the city.

“’Yong malalaking contractor na ‘yan ay hindi natutugunan ang mga schedules na dapat nilang sundin sa pagpapagawa ng kanilang [proyekto] at marami ring nababanggit na mayroon silang slippage sa paggawa ng proyekto,” Ventura said.

Virginia Gapus, contractor from Synchros Power Solution, took the opportunity and noted the delays in the projects, citing the shipment of equipment from Manila as one of the factors.


Representatives from City Engineering Office provide updates on the infrastructure projects. (Photo courtesy of Sangguniang Panlungsod ng Puerto Princesa)

“So far, yong mga rebars as of now ay mahirap lalo na kung special size, kasi ‘yong barko bihira lang din nagpaparating. Tsaka ‘yong kumpanya sa Manila less ang kanilang manpower so konti lang din ‘yong production nila,” she said.

According to Engr. Jayzel May Montealegre of the CEO, as of January 15, the city government has 32 projects in 2020, and 10 projects had been completed.

A total of 19 on-going projects were recorded by January 2021, two of which were completed as of January 31, and five was added in February 2021.

“On-going projects by administration ngayon, 14. Out of 14 may lima tayong may status na although ‘yong iba hindi pa naqu-quantify kasi puro minor works pa lang ang nagagawa,” Montealegre added.


Bidding Process

Meanwhile, Engr. Jovenee Sagun, City Planning Office (CPO) chief, told the Council that bidding for the projects are open for public, citing that “anyone” can bid.

“Open bidding ito so anybody puwede mag-bid. Magte-tender siya ng kaniyang bid. Mayroon din tayong IT bid na tinatawag natin na invitation to bid so hindi ito exclusive for a group lang kundi ito ay open itong pagpapa-bid ng ating proyekto. Batas po kasi ito, hindi pupupwedeng hindi tayo sumunod,” Sagun said.

However, Vice Mayor Nancy Socrates noted that there is something wrong with the implementation.


Photos courtesy of City Mayor’s Office

“When they submit the documents and before they get awarded the projects hindi ba tsini-check ng [BAC] kung talagang may equipment silang ganito?” Socrates asked.

During project implementation, Sagun admitted that some contractors had been lacking equipment for the project.

“’Yong TWG, kapag nagco-conduct nila ng pre-evaluation and post qualification, nagco-conduct talaga sila ng inspection ng mga equipment kung available ba ‘yong mga equipment na ‘to. Malamang lang, kapag during project implementation ay hindi nga present ‘yong equipment,” Sagun said.

Agreeing with Socrates’ pronouncements, Sagun called for a “close coordination” with the assigned engineer to double check the list of equipment submitted to their office.

“Close coordination na lang siguro with the BAC and the project engineers or kung sino ‘yong focal na engineer to the specific project na makita nya kung ano ‘yong list of equipment na isinubmit nila,” Sagun said.