Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, May 05, 2008

P400-M worth of contracts from Hanjin not a ‘bribe’-- mayor

Mayor Paulino Emano of Tagoloan town in Misamis Oriental has backtracked from his claims that Hanjin offered him P400 million worth of contracts, saying that he was a victim of politicking.

He also denied any involvement in extortion and that he would be willing to face any investigation.

In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday, Emano said he was misquoted in the media when it was reported that he accused the Korean shipbuilding firm Hanjin of trying to bribe him with P400 million worth of contracts in exchange for the expeditious issuance of municipal permits to Hanjin in its Misamis Oriental project.

"I was misquoted in my interview with broadcast and other print media. What I said is that Hanjin has discussed with me P400 million worth of projects to get sand and gravel that Hanjin will need for the construction of the shipyard," he said.

Emano said that he suspected that the controversy was deliberately orchestrated by some politicians who wanted to dip in Hanjin's billion-dollar investment.

He refused to name the politicians but hinted that they have high positions in Northern Mindanao and that they would like to establish their businesses in the Phividec area.

In a press statement issued to the media, Emano claimed the distortion of facts in the Hanjin controversy was deliberate.

"There was a deliberate attempt to distort the fact designed to embarrass the President at my expense and that of Villanueva Mayor Juliette Uy," Emano said.

Emano showed a sworn affidavit dated May 2, 2008, where he stated that Hanjin project manager Guk Hyun Choi asked him if he was interested in the sand and gravel project worth P400 million.

"Sometime in the month of March 2008, Hanjin project manager Guk Hyun Choi and I had a conference in my office and there was a discussion about the extraction of aggregates for their requirement along the Tagoloan riverbed and having noticed my seemingly non-committal stance, Mr. Choi may have been prompted to ask if I am not interested in the sand and gravel project considering that it would amount to P400M," the affidavit stated.

Emano stressed that during the meeting with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on April 30, he told the President about the P400 million worth of contracts discussed with him by Hanjin but that he never told her that it was a bribe.

"Yes, I did mention to the President about the P400 million, but I never said the word bribe. Many witnesses can attest to that," he said.

He said he remained fully supportive of the Hanjin shipbuilding project and that he readily agreed to lift the work stoppage order on Hanjin when President Arroyo asked him to do so.

In a press conference with administrator Ninfa Albania of Phividec Industrial Authority, he denied any hand in the extortion activities alleged by Hanjin management.

Mayor Uy failed to show up in the press conference and has been keeping mum on the issue.

Asked whether Hanjin would come back to Phividec to continue its operations, Albania said "Of course they will, they never withdrew the shipbuilding project in the first place. What they did was just to pull out the Mindanao Project Team," she said. By Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez - Inquirer Mindanao Bureau

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