Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, April 30, 2010

Cargo handler sues Subic agency for ‘anomalous’ transaction

CARGO HANDLER Amerasia International Terminal Services, Inc. has made good on its threat to sue Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) for sealing an allegedly "anomalous" deal that will grant another firm an exclusive concession over the Subic seaports.


Amerasia filed with the Ombudsman on Tuesday criminal charges against the SBMA and Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc., the winner of the auction for the port contract, a copy of the complainant’s affidavit bearing the Ombudsman’s receipt stamp showed.

The 41-page complaint signed by Amerasia President Mario Lorenzo A. Yapjoco and Amerasia Chairman George G. Schulze, Jr. accused SBMA and Harbour Centre of graft and unfair trade practices, which are prohibited under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Article 186 of the Revised Penal Code.

It tagged as respondents members of the SBMA Joint Venture Selection (JVS) Committee including SBMA Administrator Armand C. Arreza and the SBMA board of directors headed by Feliciano G. Salonga. It also names Harbour Centre Chairman Reghis M. Romero II and Chief Executive Officer Michael L. Romero as the other respondents.

This comes as the SBMA announced last week that Harbour Centre is poised to bag the deal to develop, operate and manage naval supply depot and neighboring wharves. No other firm submitted counterproposals by the April 22 deadline against Harbour Centre’s pledge to remit $32 million in guaranteed revenues to the government for the 25-year lease, and infuse $180 million to upgrade infrastructure.

"The SBMA-Harbour Centre contract effectively nullified, without due process, Amerasia’s valid and outstanding 25 years Lease and Cargo Handling Operations Contract with SBMA," Amerasia legal counsel Eulalio A. Ventura said in a statement yesterday.

"We hope that the charges we have filed before the Ombudsman will stop the awarding of the contract and ensure the protection of the locators’ right to operate the Subic ports and wharves. After all, they have invested millions of pesos and exerted a lot of efforts to make them clean, efficient and profitable for SBMA," Mr. Ventura said.

Another aggrieved cargo handler -- Subic Seaport Terminal, Inc. -- will reportedly go on to request courts for an injunction against the contract’s award, Mr. Ventura said earlier.

SBMA and Harbour Centre officials could not be immediately reached to comment.

SBMA expects to award the contract to Harbour Centre by June 30, after the general elections. -- Jessica Anne D. Hermosa

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