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By Erick A. Fabian

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is on the warpath against critics of the LRT-1 PPP project, and they are not helping in quelling public suspicion by being defensive.

The PPP in itself is already controversial, because it threatens to diminish public services into profiteering enterprises by big business oligarchs, who all have their men carefully placed in strategic positions in the Aquino administration.

Rather than open up the records and show transparency, as befitting a public servant, DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya has played the ‘us-versus-them’ card.

“This is clearly an attempt to block progress. The project will give residents of Paranaque, Las Pinas, and Cavite convenient and affordable transportation to the metropolis. Those who cannot afford to live in the business districts and economic centers will be given access to jobs and educational opportunities. Intrigues shouldn’t prevail over the interest of the riding public,” said DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya.

The DOTC’s insistence that the bidding process for the Php65 Billion Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) Cavite Extension (Cavex) project was fully in accordance with law is moot.

Rather than demonize the protesting public by accusing critics, the DOTC should just come clean and expose the corruption within its ranks.

One way to arrive at solutions to problems besetting the country is to identify the actual causes of the problem.

Appealing to the public’s sympathy over a controversial bid is like asking for more of the public’s ire.

The Lica Group-Ayala Connection
Abaya even went further and addressed the mounting criticism from the media by saying, “We disagree with the assertion that this project does not need to be awarded yet. We cannot honestly say this to the riding public who have been waiting for this project for many years, those whose lives will be uplifted with the opportunities and quality of life that the project presents.”

The DOTC denies the allegation that Undersecretary Rene K. Limcaoco’s brother is an officer of the winning bidder.

Supposedly, there is no Jose Teodoro K. Limcaoco listed as a director, officer, or shareholder of AC Infrastructure or any other member company of the Light Rail Manila Consortium.

But one look at the Bloomberg listing of executives online would reveal that there WAS a Jose Teodoro K. Limcaoco who worked as an executive for the Ayala Corporation.

Whether the latter is still with Ayala Corporation on an official basis is not the point. That he is affiliated with them is already questionable in itself.

The consortium is composed of Metro Pacific Investments Corporation, which has a 55% interest, AC Infrastructure (an Ayala infra arm) with 35%, and Macquarie with 10%.

It should be noted that Undersecretary Rene K. Limcaoco and his brother’s family business is the Lica Business Group.

The group is involved in real estate projects via Lica Land, which is seeking expansion in the Metro and in surrounding provinces.

Lica Land malls are slowly sprouting near significant roadways, and it is a telling sign that the Limcaocos have vested interests in the LRT-1 PPP project.

Influencing the outcome of the LRT-1 project will mean potential benefits for the Lica Group, as it is vying to gain a seat among the ranks of the country’s corporate giants.

Same Old Circus
The country’s public transport system is turning into a playground by the same group of political and big business bullies who want to keep the pie to themselves.

The MRT-3 transactions in the past have practically remained under the control of Manny Pangilinan’s Metro Pacific group, despite government takeover.

In fact, the DOTC’s takeover of the light rail system has not really improved the worsening service of the MRT-3.

It is no different from flogging a dying horse to run, and squeezing the last billion pesos from a train system that has been plagued with controversies over the years.

Meanwhile, the commuting public suffers, and safety hazards due to below-standard maintenance is threatening the lives of commuters.

Covering Up?
It is not hard to do the math on the millions that the DOTC is spending just to send out public rebuttals disguised as press releases to the media.

This is being done to distract us consumers from the intentions of politicians who want to cement the PPP program into public legislation.

The DOTC’s defensive front shows the public that the government agency has a lot of things to hide.

The corruption within its ranks is already brimming over, and people are already noticing it.

Yet, rather than be true to the ‘inclusive’ motto that the Aquino administration likes to throw around, the agency only manages to keep us all in the dark as to its machinations.

Government and big business in this country sleep in the same bed, and if suspicions by online journalists do come to pass, the ‘Cavite mafia’ that reportedly operates in the DOTC’s agencies are poised for a major power takeover.

As a variant of a common saying goes, nothing is so visible than what you want to hide.