DOTr exec ignites scandal over rail project
Some officials of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) were intentionally “derailing” the Mindanao railway project purportedly to favor foreign contractors, a DOTr official claimed on Friday.
Assistant Transport Secretary Mark Tolentino called a press conference on Friday and accused some “yellow officials” of deliberately delaying the project by pushing for a loan from China.
“There is already a budget of P36 billion but they want to borrow from one foreign company,” he said.
Tolentino said contracting a foreign loan would set back the project’s timeline by at least two years just to accomplish the paperwork alone and would favor foreign over local contractors.
“If they indeed [contract] foreign loans for the project, the project will most definitely never be completed,” he said.
Tolentino also complained that he was prohibited from talking about the progress of the project, which seeks to lay down 1,500 kilometers of rail connecting key cities in Mindanao.
But Tolentino’s boss, Transport Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan, issued a clarification on Saturday, saying Tolentino’s claims were “false, misleading and uninformed.”
Batan said Tolentino was not barred from holding a press briefing but was just asked to postpone it until after a meeting between Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.
Loan from China
Batan admitted they were considering a loan from China.
Another DOTr official, communications director Goddes Libiran, scored Tolentino’s “arrogance” when Tolentino supposedly said he was “accountable only to the President” and that he had the “blessing” of members of the first family.
She said Tolentino tagged Batan as a “yellow official” to cover for his lack of “experience and background in the railways sector.”
The railway, first conceived in 1992, has been in the back burner of four presidents until Presiden Rodrigo Duterte assumed office.
The DOTr officials were quarreling over the first phase of the project—a P36-billion, 103-km line connecting the cities of Tagum, Davao and Digos.
Once operational in 2022, the line would reduce travel time from Tagum City, Davao del Norte, to Digos City, Davao del Sur, from 3.5 hours to 1.3 hours.
Lawyer Mans Carpio, the President’s son-in-law, also slammed “the liar” Tolentino for dropping the first family’s name “for his shenanigans.”
“Warning: Please be careful and be wary [of] an ASEC of the Dept of Transportaion, a certain Mark Tolentino,” Carpio said in a Facebook post.