Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Ameriasia seeks clarification on SBMA-Harbour JV

A concessionaire for break bulk port operations of the naval supply depot (NSD) in Subic is crying foul over what it calls the "rigged" joint venture of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) and Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI).

Eulalio Ventura, counsel of Amerasia International Services Inc., one of the pioneer contractors in NSD, said SBMA executed acts of "manifest partiality" when the agency chose or favored HCPTI’s unsolicited proposal to operate the NSD with "evident bad faith and gross negligence".

Ventura said HCPTI’s unsolicited proposal was disadvantageous to the government.

"SBMA should have done due diligence to find out the background of HCPTI which has a similar monopoly at the former Smokey Mountatin and Manila north harbor and was not able to deliver on its commitments," Ventura said.

He alleged that the joint venture was also disadvantageous to the government, it being an "unincorporated joint venture."

"The deal exposes the assets of the government in case the joint venture incurs some liabilities. Unlike in an incorporated joint venture, creditors can call on the assets of the corporation and not of the partners," he said.

Ventura said the deal is disadvantageous because the current revenues of the NSD are more than what HCPTI is promising. Under the contract, HCPTI commits $500,000 in the first year but data shows that revenues of the existing operators reached $800,000 in 2009.

Ventura said the contract is replete with misleading provisions and undoable commitments.

"The deal promises that the rights of existing cargo handlers will be respected, as the agreement provides that HCPTI operations will be undertaken without prejudice to existing contractual obligations entered into by SBMA. But if you read the succeeding paragraphs, that cannot happen. The wharfs will be turned over to HCPTI. There is no assurance that that commitment will be honored," he said.

He also termed the Swiss challenge for the contract as a "farce" since the P2 billion paid-up capital is too much.

"The concessionaires were closed off from the contract since SBMA knows they cannot match or challenge that amount," he said.

He added: "Effectively what SBMA is trying to do is let HCPTI step into the shoes of SBMA to govern the operators. They will take over and will dictate, including the tariffs at the port."

Ventura also said SBMA’s contract with HCPTI nullifies the existing contracts without due process.

He said Amerasia just wants to be clarified on the provisions of the contract.

"If they want to have a hearing, give us opportunity to present our side and explain to us the conflicting provisions of the contract," Ventura said.

Ventura said Amerasia wrote SBMA a letter objecting to HCPI contract last December 10 but the agency did not respond. The company wrote SBMA another letter on February 11 asking for a hearing but this request again this fell on deaf ears. BY IRMA ISIP - Malaya

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