Ex-Cocochem chief denies hand in loss

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The Arroyo-appointed former company president Dr. Carlito Puno said he was not to blame for the series of losses suffered by the sequestered coco levy-funded United Coconut Chemicals Inc. (Cocochem), which led to the firm’s shutdown last year.

Puno said the company was already losing when he was appointed to the post in 2007. He admitted that some strategies by the Cocochem board during his term led to loses but it was under the new administration in 2011 and 2012 that cocochem lost more than P300 million a year.

In a rejoinder to a report submitted to the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), Puno said a few months after he took over, he recommended temporarily ceasing operations of the 30-year-old company “to have an honest to goodness evaluation of the viability of the company’s operations.”

He said the board of directors directed him instead to implement a “drastic cost reduction program.”

Established in 1981 to boost the coconut industry, Cocochem manufactures various oleochemical products from coconut oil for the domestic and foreign markets such as fatty acids and flakes, soap base and glycerin.

But on June 18 last year, the current administration’s Cocochem caretakers decided to shut down the plant to stop a financial hemorrhage.In a report to the PCGG, Cocochem executive vice president and chief operating officer Evelina Patiño, who was appointed in January 2011, blamed mismanagement during the watch of former Cocochem presidents Helen Osias and Puno for the huge losses starting 2006, the deterioration of equipment and the loss of skilled personnel.

In a letter to the Inquirer, Puno lambasted as “grossly inaccurate” the claims made against him in the PCGG report.

The former chair of the Commission on Higher Education said when he resigned from Cocochem in April 2011, “I was more than convinced the operation was no longer viable. I confidentially mentioned this to the PCGG chair several times.”

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