September 14, 2007

It stinks!

Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. is accused of brokering the deal between the DOTC and ZTE for the government's national broadband network project. (Photo from Wikepedia)

THAT'S what I think of the ZTE deal. It's not that ZTE isn't a reputable company, because it is. It is one of the fastest growing firms in China and its leadership in the telecommunications arena in those parts are well known. Heck, my own Internet box is a ZTE so I know it is a real company that does business and not just some fly-by-night operation.

But the way by which the contract (is it really missing or is someone just trying to hide it?) or the deal has been made is all too suspicious. First of all, do we need a national broadband network? Issues have been raised for and against the establishment of one. I don't exactly understand the point of the government in building an NBN since the country is already wired by private companies. Why is government sticking its nose in what is basically, a private sector acctivity? Now if the government had proposed to Wi-fi the entire country (as what California is trying to do), then I can give this contract a second thought.

Second, why is Comelect Commissioner Benjamin Abalos even involved in this deal? As usual he, like many government oficials before him, lacks delicadeza, and no matter how he explains it away, his involvement is dubious. (Aba, baka ma-Erap din sya!) Btw, what about the talk that Abalos is one government official who can be found anywhere except his office because he holds court at the Wack-Wack Golf & Country Club all the time? Hmmm...

It this ZTE deal another fast one the Arroyo administration is trying to pull on the Filipino people and on investors? First it was the Jancom incinerator deal that President Arroyo tried to approve despite previous presidents not signing the contract. It was a $380 million project that underwent a questionable bidding process and escalated in cost as so many goons started getting into the act and trying to get their kickbacks as well. Which reminds me, wasn't Abalos, as chairman of the MMDA then, also trying to get this Jancom project approved?

Second it was the NAIA Terminal 3 project where Arroyo's henchmen again tried to bilk the project proponents, asking to be paid $300 million so Fraport AG, operator of one of the busiest international airports in the world, would be allowed to manage the new terminal. The government questioned Fraport's partner, Piatco (PairCargo), ability to build the project when it was already 98% complete and ready to open! (I was one of the very first journalists who went inside the terminal and toured it in the month it was supposed to open.) And to think no government money was spent on building the terminal! Btw, the Arroyo government's takeover of the NAIA 3 is the primary reason the Presidentita can never set foot in Germany.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza refuses to answer questions on controversial ZTE broadband deal. (Photo from OPS)

And now here comes the ZTE deal where a public bidding was supposedly held, according to DOTC Secretary Leonardo Mendoza, but the contract was awarded to a company where the government would incur a loan from the Chinese government, whereas another proponent, Amsterdam Holdings Inc., had offered to build the NBN at no cost to the government! Hey I'm no fan of Speaker de Venecia and his family either but his son raises very valid points. The bribery allegations are the most damaging to Abalos and with his debatable conduct as Comelec chairman especially during the Garci scandal makes us believe there is something not quite right about him.

For sure, the Arroyo government is just trying play nice to our powerful neighbor to the north. After all, the Philippines can't rely on the US government forever. Its assistance to the Philippines is dwindling and American investors are choosing other Asian countries to sink their monies in. So the Arroyo government is looking to China for more investments, more aid, and tourism business. I don't oppose this tack, but all business contracts with the government must be above-board and open to scrutiny, no matter which country is involved. Instead, all the Arroyo administration has been doing is to stone-wall and try to hide behind the "sub-judice" reason so as not to explain the deal to Congress. These are simple questions that just need simple, direct-to-the point answers. But our esteeemed government officials refuse to answer. How can GMA and her henchmen even expect us, the public, to trust them?

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