Hontiveros seeks probe into P9.5-B loan for 2019 SEA Games facilities

Published November 10, 2020, 5:28 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday urged the Senate to investigate the questionable P9.5-billion loan obtained by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) with Malaysian developer MTD Capital Berhad for the construction of the sports facilities in New Clark City used in the 2019 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros
(Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Hontiveros said there are signs that the project was a “fake joint venture” funded with a “behest loan” that was disadvantageous to the public.

In filing Senate Resolution No. 567, the senator said the Senate ought to probe deeper into the issue surrounding the multi-billion credit arrangement.

“Given the billions that went to building the facilities used in the 2019 SEA Games, we must see to it that the transactions related to this project did not violate existing laws and policies, and were not prejudicial to the public,” Hontiveros said during her privilege speech.

“Mukha kasing naluto ang agreement na pinasok ng BCDA, at dahil doon, nalugi ang gobyerno at ang publiko, (I think the agreement entered into by the BCDA was rigged, and because of that, the government and the public was put at a disadvantage),” the senator further said.

Under the joint venture agreement (JVA), MTD was supposed to “advance” the entire project cost of P8.5-billion while BCDA was to provide the land on which the facilities would be built.

The senator, however, noted that MTD did not actually advance anything as the capital was supposed to provide was funded by a P9.5-billion loan from government-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) which was approved in March 2018, or a month after the JVA was signed in February.

Aside from being contractually obligated to facilitate the loan, BCDA was also obligated to reimburse MTD for the capital it had supposedly “advanced.” The BCDA actually did this in December 2019, when it paid the full amount of the loan using a P9.544-billion appropriation in the 2019 national budget.

Thus, she said, the project was funded not by MTD Berhad’s capital –as the JVA would make it appear—“but rather by taxes paid by the Filipino people.”

“What is this supposed JVA for when BCDA used public funds to pay for the amount that should have been shouldered by MTD?” she pointed out.

She said the particular transaction has all the signs of being a fake joint venture: “Hindi natin pwedeng palampasin ito, dahil nagastos natin ang P9.5-billion na magagamit sana ngayon panlaban sa COVID o kaya ay ayuda para sa Kabikulan matapos ang Bagyong Rolly. (We can’t ignore this, because we spent P9.5-billion that we could have used to fight COVID or as cash assistance for the Bicol Region affected by the recent typhoon Rolly),” she stressed.

The lawmaker said there is a necessity for the Senate to figure out if the P9.5-billion credit arrangement facilitated by BCDA was a “behest loan” or a loan granted to firms favored by top government officials.

As it is, she said, it also appears that the project was packaged as a joint venture to evade the rules on public bidding.

The senator said even the Commission on Audit (COA) red-flagged the said JVA between BCDA and MTD Berhad.

“The public deserves answers to the many questions surrounding this project. I hope the Senate can get to the bottom of this issue at the soonest possible time,” she said.