Firm protests port takeover by mayor, says it would sue

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CALAPAN CITY—The Sablayan Port in Occidental Mindoro has been marred by a dispute since early this year after the municipal government of Sablayan took over the management of arrastre services from cargo handling operator Tamarao Arrastre and Stevedoring Inc. (TASI).

In a complaint filed at the provincial board of Occidental Mindoro on March 20, Eugene Babia, the president and general manager of TASI, threatened to file charges of graft and corruption against Sablayan Mayor Eduardo Gadiano for the mayor’s alleged illegal takeover of arrastre services at the port in February.

Babia said a municipal council resolution on March 2, 2010, authorized then Mayor Godofredo Mintu to enter into a contract with TASI for cargo-handling services at the port.

But on Feb. 20 this year, Babia said first term Mayor Gadiano issued a business permit to the Sablayan Arrastre and Stevedoring Services Cooperative (SASSC) even if SASSC did not have any contract with the municipality.

Babia also claimed harassment by Gadiano after TASI’s application for renewal of business permit was denied on Feb. 24.

Asked for his reply, Gadiano, in an e-mail sent by an assistant on April 13 said “we have not received a copy of the formal complaint so we cannot reply accordingly.”

But Gadiano said the resolution authorizing  Mintu to enter into a contract with TASI was “malicious” as TASI is owned by Elvira Mintu Babia, a sister of the former mayor.

The takeover of cargo-handling services at the port was “within its mandate to promote the general public’s welfare,” the mayor said.

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