By: F. Allan L. Angelo and Wenceslao E. Mateo Jr
THE cost of the proposed Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) has ballooned to P1 billion.
No less than Senate President Franklin Drilon, proponent of the ICC project, announced the latest adjustment to the project cost in his message during the Ati-ati dance competition of the 2014 Dinagyang festival Sunday, January 26.
“Soon also, we will be inaugurating the P1 billion Iloilo Convention Center, which will be a significant project in our hosting of the APEC in the latter part of 2015,” Drilon said.
The ICC will be constructed on a 1.7-hectare lot inside the Iloilo Business Park of Megaworld located at the old airport lot in Mandurriao, Iloilo City. It was formally unveiled in 2012 in preparation for 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings.
The convention center will be the main venue of the ministerial meetings on transportation and food security (with blue economy) which has been conditionally assigned to Iloilo City.
The state-of-the-art convention center is designed by Architect William Coscoluella who used the Dinagyang and Paraw Regatta festivals as inspiration. It will be a two-storey structure with a total floor area of 6,400 square meters.
The main hall on the ground floor will have a 3,700-seat capacity and 500-seat function rooms on the second floor.
During the 2012 unveiling of the ICC, Drilon said the project will cost P350 million, with P250 million to be sourced from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel allocation.
The recent pork barrel scam involving some senators and congressmen endangered the project’s completion but Drilon was able to download P250 million for the ICC project before the Supreme Court restrained therelease of pork barrel funds (the SC later declared pork barrel allocations as unconstitutional).
By September 2013, the projected cost rose to P500 million with the Department of Tourism-Tourism Infrastructure Economic Zone Authority shouldering the P250 million budget.
On September 24, 2013, Hilmarc’s Construction Corp. (the contractor of the new Iloilo provincial capitol) won the ICC contract in a bidding conducted by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office.
Hilmarc’s tendered the winning bid of P479 million, lower than the P600-million offer of FF Cruz Construction.
Drilon said the P500 million is just for the first phase of the project and does not include amenities and fixtures.
DPWH Regional Director Edilberto Tayao said additional features such as power connections, amenities, furniture and landscaping will need an additional P200 million, jacking the total project cost to at least P700 million.
As to how the project cost ballooned to P1 billion remains unclear.
Drilon also took the opportunity to highlight the political unity of Ilonggo leaders as the main ingredients for the growth of the city and province of Iloilo.
“All these were made possible because of the united efforts of your industrious mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, our friend Congressman Jerry P. Treñas and the leader of the province of Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr., with my help and support of President Aquino,” he said.
Drilon also mentioned the Iloilo Esplanade project, a housing project for 1,000 poor families, and the new slaughterhouse in Jaro.
“Soon, we will see a beautiful Diversion Road (Ninoy Aquino Avenue) once its widening is completed. Soon also, we will be inaugurating the P1 billion Iloilo Convention Center, which will be a significant project in our hosting of the APEC in the latter part of 2015. In June, this year, the circumferential road, which is 14 kilometers long, will be completed, as well as a new passenger terminal in Muelle Loney. By next year, works on the P11.2-billion Jalaur hydroelectric and irrigation project will already start,” Drilon added.