DOT sus­pends Mon­tano’s Buhay Carinde­ria project

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By ROBERTZON RAMIREZ and LOUELLA DESIDERIO

Tourism Sec­re­tary Ber­nadette Ro­mulo-Puyat has sus­pended the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the P320-mil­lion “Buhay Carinde­ria” project of Tourism Pro­mo­tions Board (TPB) chief and ac­tor Ce­sar Mon­tano pend­ing review of the Com­mis­sion on Au­dit (COA) for not un­der­go­ing bid­ding.

Puyat told re­porters in a press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day that Buhay Carinde­ria and other projects of the TPB were put on hold af­ter she learned dur­ing her meet­ing with Mon­tano on Wed­nes­day night that these were done through “spon­sor­ships.”

“(I was told) the re­lease of the checks all went through the le­gal (depart­ment) of the TPB and was said to be above­board,” Puyat said, adding she met with Mon­tano to get his side, par­tic­u­larly on the con­tro­ver­sial P80-mil­lion pay­ment al­ready made to a cer­tain Linda Le­gaspi for the Buhay Carinde­ria project even if it has not yet started.

Puyat said she asked Mon­tano to sub­mit a list and sta­tus of the projects that did not go through bid­ding and wrote a let­ter to COA chair­man Michael Aguinaldo to review them.

Puyat said it will be up to COA to de­ter­mine if the right pro­cesses were fol­lowed.

“I will wait for COA to re­ply, but until then, I will not pro­ceed with the Buhay Carinde­ria,” she added.

As far as Mon­tano’s fate is con­cerned, Puyat said she is leav­ing it up to the Of­fice of the Om­buds­man.

“I be­lieve he acted in good faith. But maybe I am not used to it be­cause in DA (Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture), things are done dif­fer­ently... But again I’m not say­ing he is wrong. What I am say­ing is... I want ev­ery­thing to go through bid­ding and to be trans­par­ent. I am not com­fort­able to give first tranche of P80 mil­lion to one per­son only,” Puyat said.

Puyat was DA un­der­sec­re­tary be­fore she was ap­pointed Depart­ment of Tourism (DOT) chief ear­lier this month, re­plac­ing Wanda Teo who re­signed due to an al­legedly anoma­lous P60 mil­lion in ad­ver­tise­ments the DOT placed in her brother’s tele­vi­sion show.

“I am not say­ing TPB is wrong, but that is what they sup­pos­edly do at TPB all the time, spon­sor­ship,” Puyat said, adding she has to be care­ful be­cause she will be the one to implement the project even if it was signed by Teo.

Puyat said Mon­tano agreed to stop all projects that did not un­dergo bid­ding. “To be fair to him, he has a let­ter dated May 15, say­ing he was al­ready will­ing to review cur­rent pro­grams. So he is open,” she added.

New York trip cleared

On the al­leged short­ened speech of Mon­tano dur­ing an event in New York City, Puyat said Mon­tano had to do it af­ter see­ing the au­di­ence al­ready got bored af­ter the pre­sen­ta­tions and other pro­duc­tions.

She said Mon­tano was at the venue hours be­fore his speech.

“To be fair, he was there for a long time. It’s not that he went there, stayed for two min­utes and left,” she said.

Puyat, how­ever, did not ask about the al­le­ga­tions that he rushed his speech to watch the mu­si­cal “Hamil­ton.”

Asked if Mon­tano has to re­sign, Puyat said the TPB chief does not have to be­cause “come June, un­der the law, Tourism Act of 2009, the Tourism Congress will nom­i­nate new of­fi­cials.”

Res­ig­na­tions

In an­other de­vel­op­ment, Puyat said she sub­mit­ted the cre­den­tials of Art Bon­cato to the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent as she wants him to be­come one of her un­der­sec­re­taries for re­gional af­fairs.

She said five of the 10 un­der­sec­re­taries and as­sis­tant sec­re­taries of Teo have ten­dered their res­ig­na­tions to Pres­i­dent Duterte ex­cept Ben­ito Beng­zon, un­der­sec­re­tary for tourism de­vel­op­ment plan­ning.

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