Lawmakers back revival of NBN project
MANILA, Philippines—Lawmakers on Friday agreed with the plan of the Aquino administration to establish a national broadband network but they want full transparency in the bidding to avoid the fate of a similar albeit scandal-tainted project in the previous administration.
“I think a nationwide broadband network would be a worthwhile undertaking. The only issue really is cost, especially given past experience. With big projects like this it is probably best to bid it out,” said Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara in a text message.
Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone said that the NBN project has always been a “worthwhile” project since it would provide fast broadband connection to all government agencies and public schools.
Evardone said that with a reform-minded administration wary of entering into one-sided deals with private suppliers, he was confident that the current leadership was well positioned to undertake this project.
“Under P-Noy (Aquino), I think it can be revived and the controversial issues will be addressed properly,” said Evardone.
Ako Bicol party-list Representative Rodel Batocabe said this government’s commitment to full transparency in all projects should address all concerns that befell the $329-million NBN deal with Chinese firm ZTE Corp.
“We should reconfigure the terms of reference to the advantage of the government,” said Batocabe noting that the project’s price was bloated allegedly due to the kickbacks to influential government officials that led to sacrifices in the capacity and speed of the facility.
Batocabe said that just like the NBN project, the government should also implement with full transparency its plan to rebid the North Luzon Railways (NorthRail) project and open it to all bidders and not only to Chinese suppliers.
“We should not only consider Chinese investors for China is not the world and it has no monopoly of competitive, highly advantageous and technologically advanced proposals,” said Batocabe.
Just like the NBN-ZTE deal, the NorthRail project has been hounded by controversy as critics claimed it was overpriced and designed well below the specification required. But while the NBN-ZTE had been shelved, the government has already started paying for the Chinese loans used to bankroll the NorthRail project of which it has reportedly forked out a total of $100 million.
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