NEWLY appointed Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Tuesday said she will look into a controversial P80-million promotional project on the watch of actor Cesar D. Montano, the holdover chief operating officer of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB).
“I want to hear his side, I want him to explain,” Ms. Puyat told BusinessWorld when sought for comment on Monday’s column by Boo Chanco of the Philippine Star claiming that Mr. Montano paid P80 million in full for the TBP’s Buhay Carinderia food-promotion program in partnership with marketing agency Marylindbert International Inc.
“How it got approved as a tourism promotion project is beyond explanation. How the proponent/organizer was able to collect on the whole P80 million budgeted (for the Luzon phase) even before anything got started is another mystery that the new tourism secretary must look into. Was there even a public bidding?” Mr. Chanco wrote in his “Demand and Supply” column.
Documents obtained by BusinessWorld showed a total of 80,640,172.80 has been paid in tranches to Marylindbert, headed by president and CEO Erlinda S. Legaspi, as of April 4, ahead of deliverables by the company spread between March and June. TPB’s project with Marylindbert aims to promote the Philippines as a gastronomical destination.
Asked if she would stop the program, Ms. Romulo-Puyat replied, “If there was no proper bidding. If they didn’t follow the process, I will stop it.”
The Commission on Audit had earlier written TPB seeking its clarification on allegations that some of its projects lacked proper bidding.
“Malalaman pa lang tomorrow. Kawawa naman siya diba? Baka hinuhusguhan na (We will find out tomorrow. Give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s already being judged prematurely),” Ms. Puyat also said, referring to Mr. Montano.
In an earlier interview with ANC, she said she will also “look at all the contracts, even the ones existing” and that “if I find out that there’s a contract that did not undergo bidding, I will have to cancel it.”
During the interview, she also shot down Mr. Canco’s allegations, saying, “it’s all baseless. I will disprove the allegations once I arrive in Manila this week.”
On a different development, the Commission on Audit (CoA) also conducted an investigation on the TBP’s Intramuros Revival Project that allegedly did not undergo proper bidding.
CoA also flagged as anomalous TBP employees’s attendance of a marketing workshop that used funds made without any terminal report.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte appointed Ms. Puyat soon after Wanda Tulfo-Teo’s resignation on May 8, amid an escalating controversy over a P60-million ad contract also involving her brothers. — Dane Angelo M. Enerio, with Anna Gabriela A. Mogato and Arjay L. Balinbin