Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, December 19, 2008

Subic extortion

When Administrator Armand Arreza of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) went to the Kapihan sa Manila media forum to talk about the alleged extortion attempt on Palafox Associates, environmental consultant for the South Korean-owned casino-hotel planned for construction in the Subic Bay Freeport, he said he asked Felino Palafox Jr. for the identity of the person who asked for an 18 percent commission. Palafox did not identify the person, he said. Arreza said of Palafox: “Why is he not cooperating?” He also said it was reported that it was his son that asked for the commission, but his son is only 10 years old.

Last Monday, Palafox explained why he could not identify the person who delivered the extortion message. The message was not delivered to him personally, he said. “It was an engineering consultant, Ed Santos from Woodfields Consultants, who conveyed the message to our architect Chona Ponce. Santos refused to tell the name of the person who asked the 18 percent commission from Palafox Associates and Woodfields Consultants in order for us to be short-listed in the updating of the Subic Master Plan. This happened in October 2007.

“As a good citizen, I immediately reported the incident to Arreza, who volunteered to investigate the matter and he suspected someone from the bidding committee. I then told Secretary Cerge Remonde and Secretary Ed Pamintuan about the extortion attempt, when I did not get feedback from Arreza on his investigation. I was hoping, and they assured me, they would investigate. The government has the resources to investigate.”

Palafox added that he was “not clamming up.” He said, “Our sources on anomalies at the SBMA involving Arreza are so scared for their lives and safety, their business and investments, and their employment. When I told them I would report the information received, they refused to be identified or to name names.”

He added that he had been told that Santos has resigned from Woodfields and that his boss is now in Finland.

Palafox also denied naming Arreza’s 10-year-old son as the one asking for the 18 percent commission. “This is absurd, ridiculous, and too big a lie,” he said.

Palafox explained that he did not start the extortion story. “When the media interviewed me regarding the trees on the site of the proposed casino-hotel project, I was asked if I was aware of any extortion cases in Subic. I do not have control over what media writes or publishes.”

He added that his firm was commissioned to do projects here and in other countries, but he was never asked for “commissions” like they do in the SBMA. “In Clark, we have American and Kuwaiti investors who intend to invest $2 billion.” Nobody asked for the so-called “SOP, Facilitation Fee, TIP (To Insure Promptness), Lagay, Patong, which people reportedly talk about in the SBMA,” he said.

As a parting shot, Palafox said he did not name any Coscolluela as the “extortionist.” The congresswoman who said I did was wrong, he said. By Neal Cruz - As I see it - Philippine Daily Inquirer

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