Home News Cagayan Valley Cagayan Ex-CEZA chief faces graft charges over P5-B project in Cagayan

Ex-CEZA chief faces graft charges over P5-B project in Cagayan

CAGAYAN, Philippines- Cagayan Governor Manuel Mamba has filed graft charges against the former administrator of Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) for the alleged anomalous breakwater project at Port Irene.

In his 41-page complaint, a copy of which was obtained by Rappler, Mamba asked Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to indict Jose Mari Ponce for the building of “diadvantageous” P5-billion breakwater project.

Mamba has long been a critic of the CEZA administration, an economic zone authored by his political nemesis, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

The freeport’s 1-kilometer breakwater was started in 2006 with a total budget of P5.07 billion and was constructed in five phases.

Rappler on Wednesday, August 2, tried to reached Ponce for statement but calls were not answered.

‘Overpriced’

Mamba, citing several third party analysis, said the government spent on the construction of the breakwater much higher than engineering estimates.

Using the same specifications of the project, the Cagayan State University College of Engineering pegged the breakwater to be P1.3 million per meter or P1.3 billion.

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) said the government should have only spent P1.07 million per meter while the Hyder Consulting in Germany pegged the cost to be P1.1 million per meter.

The breakwater, from its foundation to its crown, is measured to be 14 meters from the water surface.

CEZA built the first 250 meters for P816.1 million, or P3.26 million per meter.

The next 750 meters were constructed by Sta. Elena Construction Corp. at P4.2 billion, or P5.7 million per meter.

‘Big puzzle’

Left: Governor Manuel Mamba (Photo courtesy of CPIO); Right: Ex-CEZA administrator Jose Mari Ponce (CEZA photo)

In April 20, 2006, CEZA entered into two contracts with J. Vitangcol Construction Co.: first, the “build-and-design” contract worth and second, a contract for “strengthening and reinforcement of blocks”

Mamba, in his complaint, said those contracts entered into by CEZA were questionable.

“In effect, even without starting the design and construction of the first 250-meter breakwater, CEZA already contracted for its strengthening and reinforcement on the same day,” Mamba said.

He added that the strengthening and reinforcement of the project should have not been separated in the first contract.

“Why a separate contract for the strengthening and reinforcement of a structure before it is built is a big puzzle, for this should have been part of the original design,” Mamba added.

‘Cooperative’

Ponce just left his position as administrator last July 24, when lawyer Raul Lambino formally took over as the newly-appointed chief of the economic zone.

For his part, Lambino said he will be cooperating if ever the Ombudsman investigates.

“In our case, the new leadership of CEZA, we will cooperate with investigation, now in the hands in the Ombudsman. We will not hide anything, for as long as those information are available in our hands,” Lambino said in a press briefing on Wednesday in Santa Ana, Cagayan.

Lambino added that he already directed all officials and personnel to prepare for the investigations to be conducted.

“There is no better body that can undertake in that investigation, if there were wrongdoings, anomalies, than the Ombudsman itself,” he said. Raymon Dullana/Northernforum.net

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