Philippines offers private firms $1.1 bln tender to build, maintain jail

MANILA, March 16 (Reuters) - Philippine contractor Megawide Construction Corp said it was interested in taking part in a $1.1 billion government tender to build and maintain a prison north of the capital.

The tender, launched earlier this month, is part of the government’s efforts to fix a dilapidated prison system that is the fourth most overcrowded in the world, according to the International Centre for Prison Studies (ICPS).

It is also one of several private-public partnership (PPP) projects launched by the government to improve infrastructure in Southeast Asia’s fifth largest economy.

Megawide, which has so far bagged a third of all PPP projects awarded so far, said investing in prisons was profitable, citing privately maintained jail facilities in Australia, Brazil, and United States.

“We are interested,” Louie Ferrer, Megawide vice president, told Reuters. “Australia is impressive in prison PPPs, and it looks like it is a good business opportunity when we talked to the operators there.”

Conglomerates Ayala Corp and DMCI Holdings Inc , which have also won PPP contracts, told Reuters they had yet to decide on whether to take part in the tender.

The winning bidder will finance, design, build and maintain the prison facility that is targeted to accommodate nearly 27,000 inmates and staff. The government will start accepting offers in August and the contract will run for 23 years.

The Philippines has seven national prisons and more than 1,100 city, district, municipal and provincial jails. The prison population stood at 106,323 in 2012, the highest in the 12-year period reviewed by ICPS.

The overcrowding is aggravated by the slow judicial process, a lack of basic infrastructure, and inadequate nutrition and medical attention, the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in a 2013 report. (Reporting By Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Rosemarie Francisco and Miral Fahmy)