Scam seen in P18-M Zambales relocation plan

By Tonette Orejas
Central Luzon Desk
Last updated 04:59am (Mla time) 08/23/2007

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The Zambales government’s task force monitoring the social commitments of a Korean shipbuilder has reported uncovering signs of corruption in the P18-million relocation program that the company has funded.


Mayor Jeffrey Khonghun of Subic, Zambales, supervised the program for some 400 families displaced by the shipyard project of the Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co. Ltd. in the town, according to the task force.


Gov. Amor Deloso on Monday told the Inquirer that Task Force Hanjin, chaired by former Vice Gov. Ramon Lacbain II, has found “numerous irregularities” in the relocation project in Barangay Agusuhin.


Hanjin general manager Jong Yu Pyeong did not answer the Inquirer’s call and text message on Monday inquiring about the alleged anomalies.


The task force reported the absence of bidding for the construction of public facilities, the collapse of two school buildings, large cracks on the walkways and walls of several classrooms, unstable footbridge, non-construction of water and drainage systems and road network, and non issuance of land titles to settlers.


Deloso said he confirmed the task force’s findings during a check at the site and consultation with residents on Wednesday.


He said the project might have gone wrong because “local government officials were in cahoots with erring contractors.”


A copy of the purchase order by Hanjin to the North Bound Hardware and General Merchandise showed the company bought P18.28 million worth of supplies for 33 facilities.


Khonghun received a copy of the purchase order on May 16, 2006, the same document showed.


Based on the order, Hanjin intended the supplies for five rooms as teachers’ quarters, 18 classrooms and a library, three toilets and a lavatory, three elevated water tanks, two flagpoles, two school stages and a plaza stage, two chapels, a church, three shallow well hand pumps, a day care center, a school gate and marker, a health center, a playground and a basketball court.


But Khonghun said he had “no direct hand” in the project. He said it was Hanjin that chose the supplier for the project.


Khonghun said he recommended the contractors when Hanjin officials inquired which were qualified.


“Ako po ang namili (I chose them),” he said in a phone interview. “I initiated the relocation project because even while the settlers were compensated for the damages when their houses were demolished, they would have no public utilities at the site. The municipal government also paid for the land survey.”


Hanjin paid damages of between P20,000 and P500,000 to the families, Lacbain said.


Khonghun said no public bidding and audit were held because the contract was between a private company, Hanjin, and private contractors.


“They are people of Governor Deloso,” Khonghun added, referring to the contractors.


Lacbain said there were three contractors, one of whom reported receiving only P3 million.


But Deloso said: “Even if they were my people, it does not matter. I was not yet governor then.”


“The point is Mayor Khonghun, the supplier and the contractors should explain how they spent the money and why the structures are damaged or missing. Those funds were intended for public facilities,” Deloso said.


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