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Private sector executives form Roxas’ DoTC team

MANILA, Philippines – Transportation Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II has recruited a team of senior-level private sector executives, only two of whom had previous government service experience, to help shepherd much-needed reforms through the biggest department in the executive branch of government.

The former senator named Rene “Timmy” Limcaoco, Jose Perpertuo “Juju” Lotilla and Rafael “Paeng” Santos as the new undersecretaries of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC). Also part of his new team is Jose “Tito” Aliling, the current chairman of North Luzon Railways Corp. (NorthRail).

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“These men took a huge cut in pay to accept these jobs,” Roxas said in a recent interview. Their appointment papers were officially accepted and signed by President Aquino on Wednesday and were officially transmitted to the DoTC on Thursday.

Santos served as undersecretary of operations at the Department of National Defense when Avelino Cruz was defense secretary.

An industrial engineer and lawyer from the Ateneo de Manila University law school by profession, Santos will head the DoTC’s operations sector, which will oversee the day-to-day functions of all government-run transportation services.

“He will make sure that everything runs smoothly. A quiet day will be a good day,” Roxas said. “He will be our ‘operations king,’” he added.

Tasked to handle the DoTC’s public-private partnership (PPP) and greenfield projects sector will be Limcaoco, also an Ateneo lawyer and a Stanford-trained economist. Roxas described Limcaoco as a successful businessman.

Limcaoco owns the “Rapide” chain of car service garages. His family owns the company that distributes General Motors and Nissan vehicles in the country.

“As an entrepreneur, he has actually had to meet a payroll and be responsible for the jobs of a lot of people,” Roxas said.

To head the department’s legal services sector will be Lotilla, the former head of litigation at the Sycip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan law office.

“He has represented some of the biggest clients in the country and in some instances, even the government… he’ll be in charge of getting us out of problematic projects,” Roxas said, giving Lotilla the nickname: “terminator of contracts.”

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Meanwhile, Roxas said he had also asked Aliling, a civil engineer, to head a task force that would tackle all problems related to rail transportation. Roxas said Aliling has been tasked to take charge of fixing the problem of the country’s aging and overworked train lines, which have experienced frequent breakdowns since the start of the year.

Roxas said Aliling would have been named undersecretary, but the latter declined the post, saying he could not work with the DoTC full-time.

Roxas explained that the new structure of the DoTC management meant to capitalize on the skills and expertise of each official. In the past, the DoTC was divided into four sectors depending on the different forms of transportation. These were rail, air, road and sea transportation. “That old structure is fine if everything is working smoothly, but they are not,” Roxas said. “The skills required from each official under the old structure require him to be an expert in day-to-day operations, all the way to court litigation. There are a few people that have that full range of skills,” he said.

He said under the new structure, all legal problems would be handled by a litigation expert, all operational services would be done by an operations expert and all new projects would be handled by a businessman.

The three undersecretaries will replace Ruben Reinoso, Dante Velasco and Glicerio Sicat, who were brought in by Roxas’ predecessor Jose “Ping” de Jesus to the DoTC in 2010.

Roxas said the fourth member of De Jesus’ team, Undersecretary Aristotle Batuhan, has agreed to stay with the department for another month or two to aid in the transition of the new management. “[Batuhan] has been very instrumental in the takeover,” Roxas said.

Roxas said it was possible for Aliling to take Batuhan’s place after the latter’s resignation from office. “But we can also bring in someone new,” Roxas pointed out.

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