(Clarifies in second paragraph that deal is biggest road PPP deal)
* Road toll project worth an estimated $811 mln
* Move overturns decision by Public Works department committee
* San Miguel had submitted highest bid before disqualification
By Rosemarie Francisco
MANILA, July 3 (Reuters) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino has unexpectedly granted San Miguel Corp 30 days to appeal against its disqualification from bidding for a major road project, throwing the government’s tender policy into disarray.
The conglomerate was barred last month from bidding for the Philippines’ biggest road public-private partnership deal to date - one worth an estimated 35.4 billion pesos ($811 million) - by a special committee of the Public Works department, which cited discrepancies in documents related to funding for the project.
In an order dated June 30 and seen by Reuters, the presidential palace granted San Miguel’s request for a review of its case, ordering it to submit its appeal straight to Aquino’s office within 30 days.
Aquino’s uncle, Eduardo Cojuangco, is the chairman of San Miguel although their families have had political differences in the past.
San Miguel’s bid had been disqualified although it had offered 20.1 billion pesos for the toll road project, much more than a 11.7 billion peso bid from Ayala Corp and Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc.
Stephen Paradies, Aboitiz Equity chief finance officer, said on Wednesday that San Miguel’s move to seek the president’s intervention was unfortunate as it represented a new setback for an already delayed project.
“We really need to get this project going. Our country badly needs infrastructure. We just want to point out that the integrity of the bidding process is very, very important. It should not be compromised because you send a wrong signal all around,” he said in a television interview.
Prior to seeking the president’s intervention, San Miguel had said it would consider all possible legal remedies, including going to court, to get fair treatment in the tender.
$1 = 43.6300 Philippine Pesos Additional reporting by Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Edwina Gibbs