DEPARTMENT of Transportation (DoTr) Secretary Arthur P. Tugade

TRANSPORTATION Secretary Arthur P. Tugade on Tuesday said his offshore investments were a “personal financial move” made before he joined the government.

He issued the statement in response to a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) that he has been “keeping an offshore company while he occupied government posts in the last eight years.”

Mr. Tugade had been listed as a director of Solart Holdings Ltd., a British Virgin Islands-based firm since 2007, according to the investigative report. PCIJ said he had not declared the company among his assets as required by law.

PCIJ published the report on Monday in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and news website Rappler. It used documents leaked to the ICIJ, PCIJ said.

“I would like to acknowledge that due to an administrative oversight, I was not made aware of the interview request letter sent by PCIJ,” Mr. Tugade said in the statement.

He said Solart Holdings was organized in 2003 to hold a portion of his family’s cash assets.

“Having some of our family’s savings invested in Solart Holdings was our legitimate attempt to grow our financial portfolio like what any astute and judicious entrepreneurs would do to diversify their investments,” Mr. Tugade said. “We decided to have a portion of our savings invested outside the Philippines, which is valid and legal.”

He said the matter was disclosed in his net worth statement from 2012 to 2020.

Offshore investments may mean cash deposits in banks outside the country or shares of companies abroad, PCIJ said, citing former Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim S. Jacinto-Henares.

“If it’s the former, then he has properly disclosed his assets, but if [it is supposed to mean he has an offshore company], then his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth are lacking,” she said. 

Mr. Tugade, whose life is described as a “rags-to-riches success story,” in a profile published on the website of the Tourism Promotions Board, was appointed in 2012 as president and chief executive officer of Clark Development Corp., a state-owned company that manages the Clark Freeport and Clark Special Economic Zone. He was appointed secretary of the Department of Transportation in 2016.

In 2003, he founded Perry’s Group of Companies, a corporation that is into trucking, logistics, shipping, fuel distribution, travel and fashion, according to his profile.

The PCIJ report was meant to “besmirch the character of Secretary Tugade, and by extension, the Duterte administration,” according to an open letter posted by Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran on Facebook.

“Consider this as a stern warning and an assertion that our lawyers will exert all necessary effort, to the fullest extent of the law, to find those behind the malicious and irresponsible publication of this report.” — Arjay L. Balinbin