MANILA, Philippines–Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio “Jun” Abaya has brushed off as “part of public service” recent allegations that several of his key officials are involved in widespread oil smuggling.
This comes amid reports that former Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Eduardo Oban Jr., who was recently appointed an Undersecretary at the Department of Transportation and Communications, had helped local oil firms smuggle billions of pesos worth of fuel into the country.
Oban is currently on leave from the DOTC, which started April 1 and will last six months.
“There was no talk of smuggling when he went on leave. There is nothing to investigate in DOTC,” Abaya said in a text message when sought for comment.
Abaya likewise said there were no “differences in policy or management style” that would have prompted Oban to go on leave. Oban did not specify his reason for going on leave.
Abaya said Oban had called, asking where allegations that linked him to smuggling had come from. Abaya said his reply was: “I said I guess it is all part of public service.”
Oban was named undersecretary last November to handle DOTC’s day-to-day operations. He replaced Rafael Santos, who, prior to joining the DOTC, was also an undersecretary at the Department of National Defense.
A graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, Oban also holds a degree in Business Economics from the University of Asia and the Pacific. Oban was the third Chief of Staff to come from the Air Force since 1996. He also played a major role in the negotiation with Magdalo rebels involved in the Oakwood mutiny in 2003.
Oban was named AFP Chief of Staff in March 2011, but left in November of the same year after reaching the mandatory retirement age.
Ramon S. Ang, head of the country’s biggest oil refiner and retailer Petron Corp., had said the government loses as much as P40 billion a year in foregone tax revenues due to the rampant smuggling of petroleum products.
These smuggled goods, he said, are likely bought from neighboring countries like Indonesia where fuel is subsidized by the government before being brought into the country through special economic zones.
Prior to joining the DOTC, Oban was head of the Clark Development Corp., which manages the landlocked Clark Freeport.