Press Release
December 4, 2008

Pia: Probe irregularities at Subic free port

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today said the Senate should look into the claim by world-renowned Filipino architect Felino Palafox Jr. that his firm had refused to undertake the design for a Korean hotel and casino project at the Subic free port because it would lead to the cutting of 366 trees, including around 30 century-old trees at the free port's former mini-golf course.

"As early as September, our office was already receiving reports how the SBMA (Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority) itself was vigorously pushing for the project despite the absence of an ECC (Environmental Clearance Certificate)."

"The trees would have been felled for the casino if it wasn't for the vigilance of concerned citizens who protested against the project's environmental impact."

She said that while SBMA initially denied the original plan for the casino, the concerns surrounding the project were confirmed with Palafox's revelations.

"It will be recalled how SBMA had allowed Korean investor Hanjin Heavy Industries to construct two high-rise condominium buildings inside a forested area without first securing an ECC," recounted the lady senator, who led an on-site probe on alleged environmental violations by the Hanjin shipyard project in Subic earlier this year.

She said the SBMA should also be made to explain another revelation by Palafox that an SBMA official had attempted to extort money from his firm to have the latter included in the shortlist of bidders for a major project updating the free port's master development plan.

"The allegation already brings major embarrassment to the country since it reinforces investors' perception about rampant corruption in the bureaucracy, and even right at a premiere free port zone where regulations were supposedly streamlined to facilitate steady flow of investments."

"Add to this the mounting incidents of deaths and accidents of Filipino workers at the shipyard, and we see a recurring pattern of violations apparently being tolerated by the SBMA. When will the Palace finally put its foot down to stop all of this?" she asked.

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