Sunday, March 15, 2015


WE, in the Philippines, have our share of sunny days. In fact, for some, we have too much sun. It’s time that we use the sun to our advantage. Solar Philippines, one of the largest developers of rooftop solar power plants in Southeast Asia, will soon merge with a publicly listed company to put up the biggest solar farm in the country.

Solar Philippines founder and president Leandro Leviste says Solar Philippines is tying up with a listed firm to provide solar with the financial muscle to build a 40-megawatt (MW) solar farm in Calatagan, Batangas. “We will announce a partnership with a local publicly listed company in the next two weeks,” says Leviste. Under the agreement, Solar Philippines and its partner would each have a 50-percent stake in the project.

With the going average investment for solar plants currently at $2-million per MW, Solar Philippines and its partner will need $80 million for its planned solar farm. Solar Philippines, to date, has over 10 service contracts with the Department of Energy. Solar Philippines has seven megawatts of solar energy under its portfolio at present, most of which are rooftop developments. The 40-MW solar project is the company’s first venture outside solar rooftop developments.

“There’s a 500 MW allocation for the FIT (feed-in-tariff) and there’s a lot of competition to get it. Our hope is to get at least 100 MW of that,” Leviste says.

“Our advantage is we’re converting unutilized rooftop space and making them our plants to supply the grid. We’re not putting them in countryside where there is a lot of permitting processes involved,” he adds.

Solar firms have been lobbying for the DOE to increase the installation targets for solar power to 500 MW from the current 50 MW.

Developers who can make it within the allocation will enjoy FIT incentives from the government. Under the FIT scheme, companies are entitled to a rate of P9.68 per kwh for solar power.


Finally, the Office of the Ombudsman is showing that it is seriously going after government officials who break the rules. The Ombudsman has placed Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay and other officials under preventive suspension while they are being probed for graft in connection with the allegedly overpriced Makati Parking Building.

The Ombudsman is also set to start its preliminary investigation against Vice President Jejomar Binay, his son Mayor Binay and 22 others for malversation, falsification, graft and violation of the procurement law in connection with the allegedly overpriced Makati City Hall Parking Building.

The Ombudsman Special Panel of Investigators filed its complaint against the respondents for the alleged overpricing of the parking building whose construction started in 2007 when Vice President Binay was still Makati mayor. The filing of the complaint comes after months of case build-up and evidence gathering by Ombudsman field investigators, clearing the way for a preliminary investigation which precedes the finding of probable cause and subsequent indictment.

The preliminary investigation will look into the alleged irregularities in the procurement and award for the design and architectural services as well as the construction of the parking building. The complaint notes that the respondents awarded the P11.9-million contract for the design and architectural services to MANA Architecture and Interior Design Company without public bidding. The payment for the contract was also released to MANA even without the deliverables made. In fact, according to the complaint, the first two phases of the construction of the building also proceeded without a detailed engineering plan, contrary to procurement rules.

Meanwhile, Hilmarc Construction, the contractor allegedly behind the overpriced construction, was purportedly awarded with the contract despite irregularities and use of falsified documents. The complaint also notes that there were supposedly two losing bidders in the contract. But as it turns out, one of the bidders has denied participation while the other is non-existent.

Included in the complaint are former City Administrator Marjorie de Veyra, City Legal Officer Pio Kenneth Dasal, City Budget Officer Lorenza Amores, former Central Planning Management Office (CPMO) Chief Virginia Hernandez, former City Engineer Mario Badillo, former City Accountant Leonila Querijero, former Acting City Accountant Raydes Pestaño, City Accountant Cecilio Lim III, Acting City Accountant Eleno
Mendoza, City Treasurer Nelia Barlis, CPMO Engineers Arnel Cadangan, Emerito Magat and Connie Consulta, CPMO Chief Line Dela Peña, Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Secretariat Heads Giovanni
Condes and Manolito Uyaco, Technical Working Group (TWG) Chairman Rodel Nayve, BAC member Ulysses Orienza, General Services Department (GSD) OIC Gerardo San Gabriel, GSD staff member Norman Flores, as well as private respondents Orlando Mateo of MANA and Efren Canlas of Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation (Hilmarc).

Besides the criminal charges, the respondents, except for Vice President Jejomar Binay who wants to become our next president, also faces administrative raps for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, with the possibility of being suspended from government pending administrative adjudication.

The Ombudsman probe stemmed from a plunder complaint filed by Renato Bondal and Nicholas Enciso VI. According to the plunder complaint, the construction of the building worth P1.56 billion was overpriced, citing National Statistics Office construction data which estimated the average cost of the building at only P245.6 million.


Senator Nancy Binay, speaking for the family, questioned what she sees as the undue haste of the Office of the Ombudsman in ordering the suspension of her brother, Makati Mayor Jejomar “Jun-Jun” Binay.

Nancy sees this as part of what she calls “Oplan Nognog,” a smear campaign meant to derail the presidential bid of her father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, in 2016. “True enough mas mabilis pa sa alas-
singko kung totoo nga na nakakuha siya ng suspension,” she says, referring to the Ombudsman’s order placing her brother, the mayor, under a six-month preventive suspension.

Asked if the suspension was politically motivated, Senator Binay said: “Hindi ba obvious na obvious kasi parang last week lang ang balita ay preliminary investigation… Kapag nakita n’yo ‘yung history ng Ombudsman, bakit pag kunyari medyo kaalyado nila…May narinig na ba kayong na-suspend na ganito kabilis? So for us, kumbaga kung may Oplan Exodus, may Oplan Nognog.

“Kung titingnan n’yo ‘yung suspension ng Ombudsman, laging ginagamit yan e. Noong time ni President Arroyo ginamit ‘yung Ombudsman para ipitin ‘yung ating Vice President tapos ngayon, parang ganun pa din…”

With what’s happening now, she said she would not be surprised if there will also be efforts to go after her or any of her siblings.

“I think ‘yung isang natutunan ko sa ating Vice President eh life is a constant struggle and this is just one struggle na kailangan malagpasan natin,” she said.

She added: “Kung kelangan naming pagdaanan to para lang mas makapagsilbi ‘yung ang ating Vice President eh kaming mga anak nya ay willing to go through these over and over again.”

The mother, Dra. Elenita Binay, also has a much-delayed pending Ombudsman case for graft during her stint as Makati mayor when the Binay children were still too young to enter Makati politics.


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