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Monday, February 26, 2024

Positive news

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"Finally, a vaccine."

 

For a world battered by the COVID-19 pandemic for many months now, news of success in coming up with a vaccine, by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, is welcome indeed.

Reports have it that this vaccine is more that 90-percent effective based on initial trials.

The virus has killed more than a million people worldwide!

There is actually a race among pharmaceutical companies. Among the contenders are Sinovac from China, Sputnik V from Russia, AstraZeneca from Great Britain and many others.

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Pfizer expects to seek US emergency use authorization for people aged between 16 and 85. All it needs is two months to ensure no side effects crop up.

Another bit of good news for the Philippines in the midst of the pandemic is the assessment by the government that the country is over the hump and that the economy is beginning to recover from the months of lockdown.

President Duterte’s optimism is based on statistics that show that the contraction of the economy in the third quarter was a much-lower 11.5 percent compared to 16.5 percent in the second quarter.

Personally, I would like to believe that the worst is over for the economy. I am even as optimistic as Mr. Duterte because the Christmas holidays are coming up.

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Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros has sought a probe into the alleged joint venture between the Bases Conversion Development Authority and a Malaysian firm, MTD Capital Berhad. The deal for the construction of facilities for the Southeast Asian Games last year was flagged by the Commission on Audit for being “prejudicial to the interest of the government.”

There is actually a pending case filed by a non-government organization before the Office of the Ombudsman. Still, I believe a Senate investigation is necessary because the deal truly raises valid questions.

First, these two entities entered into a so-called joint venture agreement for the construction of sports facilities at the New Clark City. What BCDA head Vince Dizon did was bundle this with the construction of the National Government Administration Center as a back-up government office.

Second, when Dizon submitted a draft contract to former Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Phillip Jurado, the latter noted that the deal for the sports facilities was under a build-operate-transfer scheme, which means it had to undergo public bidding. Dizon had bundled the sports facilities deal to escape this. As a result, Jurado – my nephew – refused to grant the BCDA-MTD deal its Contract Review and Counsel’s Opinion. The BCDA needs this to finalize the agreement.

Third, in the draft contract submitted to Jurado, Dizon inserted Section 8 that allowed MTD to reimburse more than P8 billion, representing the cost of the sports facilities, with the BCDA paying P2.2 billion annually as return on investment and reasonable cost.

Clearly, this is where I smelled a rat.

Every lawyer knows that in a JVA, neither party reimburses much less provides returns on investment to the other party. This is because both parties provide their own share in the partnership. The BCDA’s share was the 40 hectares of property at New Clark City where the facilities would be constructed. MTD Capital contributed the cost of the construction.

And then, this is what makes everything worse: BCDA has to pay P2.2 billion annually. The Malaysian firm, which borrowed money from our Development Bank of the Philippines, never had it so good!

Another surprising thing was that the successor of Jurado as government counsel approved the deal, saying that everything was above board. Elpidio Vega indeed has a lot of explaining to do.

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With President Duterte’s order for Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to make big-ticket cases of corruption a priority, Guevarra should now direct the National Bureau of Investigation to look into this deal. Nobody should be spared.

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