Hundreds ‘lose’ work after Rama cancels contract to build CCMC

HUNDREDS of workers of three subcontractors were barred from entering their worksite Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, a day after Mayor Michael Rama announced that he would cancel the P908 million contract of the Cebu City Government with the joint venture of M.E. Sicat Construction Inc. and Avecs Corp. for the construction of Phase 4 of the new Cebu City Medical Center for failure to deliver on its commitments.

The construction workers started arriving for work at 7 a.m. believing they would continue to work as usual as they had not been advised otherwise following Rama’s announcement.

The workers are now calling on the mayor to allow them to continue their work since Christmas is approaching and they would have difficulty looking for other jobs in the construction industry leading to December when hiring is typically low.

The workers who come from Cebu City as well as other parts of the province said they have no other means of livelihood.

They told Superbalita Cebu that most of them had even voted for Rama in the May 2022 elections.

The workers said if they would no longer be allowed to work, then they would like to be able to take their belongings with them, especially as masons, carpenters and other types of construction workers will not be accepted for work without their tools.

Collin Rosell, secretary to the mayor, said even if the workers were no longer allowed to enter their worksite, they would still be allowed to take their things so long as they followed the security protocol implemented by engineer Roberto Varquez.

The M.E. Sicat joint venture’s around 300 construction workers were working on the interior of the third and fourth floors of the new CCMC after Rama agreed to have them focus on these floors instead of on the structural works for the eighth to the tenth floors of the hospital.

The construction workers weren’t the only ones concerned about the latest development.

Owners of eateries near the CCMC also expressed concern as the construction workers who were not allowed to return to work had yet to pay their debts for purchasing food from them.

Inspecting foundation

Michael Allan Sicat, president of M.E. Sicat Construction, said he was compliant with the contract as his joint venture had been given 570 calendar days from April 6, 2022 to complete Phase 4 of the project.

He said they had not begun work on the structural works going to the eighth floor since their architects and engineers are still conducting an inspection on the strength of the foundation of the CCMC, as they were not the ones who built the hospital’s lower floors.

Sicat said they could not start work on the shell of the 10-story CCMC until they ascertained the integrity of the building as it was another contractor, C.E. Padilla Construction Inc., that had undertaken Phase 1 of the hospital’s construction, which dealt with the initial structural portion of the building.

Rama said he would not change his decision on the cancellation of the contract since he wants Cebuanos to already be able to avail themselves of the hospital’s services for free.

“I have to cross the Rubicon. The die is cast,” Rama had said Wednesday.

Jerone Castillo, former city attorney and special assistant on projects under the Office of the Mayor, said that under Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, the contract could be cancelled.

“(Their) failure to comply with a valid instruction of the procuring entity under these rules is enough basis for us to terminate the contract. They failed to deliver what they were supposed to do, based on the contract, based on their obligation, based on their commitment to the mayor as head of the procuring entity,” he said in a mix of English and Cebuano Wednesday.

Castillo did not specify what parts of the contract the M.E. Sicat joint venture had failed to deliver on, but Rama said that the City Government had an agreement with M.E. Sicat to complete the shell of the CCMC, which was replaced with the commitment to complete the interiors of the third and fourth floors before Oct. 28, the mayor’s 68th birthday.

Sicat said the Oct. 28 deadline was just a request from Rama, and the City had been able to open the third floor with two functional operating rooms while they continue working on other parts of the fourth floor.

The mayor said Wednesday that the City’s Bids and Awards Committee would no longer undertake another public bidding. Instead, they would look for another solution that would not entail any more expense on the part of the City to complete the CCMC.

The mayor said a Cebuano philanthropist was ready to help complete the construction of the 10-story CCMC in Barangay Pahina Central and ensure that Cebuanos would pay “zero” to get treated at the hospital. (PAC / CTL)