Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Monday, March 09, 2009

Palafox apologizes to 5 government officials linked to Subic mess

RENOWNED architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. has apologized to five government officials he earlier implicated in alleged anomalies at the Subic Bay Free Port.
“It can be hearsay, or maybe factual. I’m very sorry if it created a lot of trouble,” he told legislators during the resumption of the hearing being conducted by the the House Committee on Bases Conversion.

The congressional investigation was prompted by a resolution seeking an investigation on the environment issues surrounding the construction of Ocean 9 Hotel-Casino and Golf Course, particularly the cutting of 366 trees.

Since then alleged anomalies, such as extortion attempts related to bidding for the revision of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Master Development Plan and grand profiteering, cropped up.

Members of the committee, headed by Lakas Rep. Edwin Uy of Isabela, agreed to conduct separate investigations on the matter, as manifested by Party-list Rep. Carissa Coscoluella of Buhay.

Palafox issued the apology after failing to substantiate claims of protectionism and corruption against Sen. Richard Gordon, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) Chairman Ephraim Genuino, former congressman Prospero Pichay, Representative Coscolluela and SBMA Director Ricardo Coscolluela.

Palafox said earlier the five names he mentioned were being brought up constantly by “hundreds of people” as protectors of SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza, and involved in some anomalies in the free port.

But members of the committee began to intensely grill Palafox upon realizing the architect cannot substantiate his charges with solid evidence.

“We cannot just allow anybody, even us legislators, to accuse anyone without reasonable basis,” said Lakas Rep. Maria Rachel Arenas of Pangasinan.

Arenas’s party-mate, Lakas Rep. Philip Pichay of Surigao del Sur, told Palafox during the hearing that he has caused pain not only to his brother Prospero, but also their mother and other people close to the family.

Pichay said he is wondering why his brother, now in the water-utility sector, got entangled in the issue.

He then demanded a public apology from Palafox, specifying that it must be printed and aired in the media to clear the names of those he has “smeared.”

Palafox said, in defense, that he has “never accused anyone” and that he was merely relaying information he has received.

“I must apologize for the pain it might have caused,” said Palafox. “I am just a taxpayer. I don’t have the resources to investigate, so maybe these should be referred to the NBI [National Bureau of investigation], the Ombudsman or to other agencies.

This further irked Pichay, who asserted that Palafox should have held on to evidence before making accusations.

He added that the committee hearing is not the proper venue to disclose hearsays.

Arreza, meanwhile, expressed relief over the course of the investigation.

“The committee, I believe, is now realizing that all Palafox has got from the beginning was blank ammunition. He’s just making noise,” said Arreza.

During last week’s hearing, Palafox disproved the accusation Coscolluela that the motive behind his exposé is to try to cash in on the real-estate project.

Coscolluela tried to pin down Palafox, accusing the architect of grand profiteering for trying to lure Gran Utopia to relocate its project to Moonbay Marina, of which Palafox is a stockholder.

According to Coscolluela, Subic Coastal Development Corp. (SCDC), operator of Moonbay Marina, stands to earn no less than $40 million should Gran Utopia relocate to its site, with 10 percent, or $4 million, going to the SBMA.

Palafox, however, told the panel his shares in Moonbay were payment for his professional fee for the project, as attested in a letter written by SCDC president Marianito Fernandez.

“The shares attributed to me were payment for my professional fee, which I have almost forgotten. And even if I am a shareholder in Moonbay, I am not part of the company’s operation, so I am not aware whether SCDC asked Gran Utopia to relocate its project to Moonbay,” Palafox said.

Palafox, who exposed irregularities and extortion in SBMA bidding, last year backed out of the $120-million Gran Utopia—in effect losing $1 million (P48 million) in professional fees—after learning that the project would involve clearing 366 endangered trees in Subic’s Central Business District. Written by Fernan Marasigan /Business Mirror

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  • now we know the truth its palafox et. al greed for money and not those trees are the real issue shame on you!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3/15/2009 5:03 PM  

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