P4.5-billion plunder raps filed vs Atienza, et al

THE Manila city government has filed a P4.5-billion plunder case against former mayor and environment secretary Lito Atienza in connection with the alleged overpricing in the project to dredge the historic Pasig River.

Also named respondents in a 21-page complaint filed with the Office of the Ombudsman by Manila city administrator Amado Tetangco were architect Deogracias Tablan and Engr. Alan Gatpolintan, executive director and assistant executive director, respectively, of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC).

Atienza, Tablan and Gatpolintan were charged with allegedly conspiring to award to the Belgian company Baggerwerken Decloedt (BDT) a hugely overpriced contract for the dredging of the Pasig River in October 2008 Atienza, then Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) secretary and as PRRC board chairman, and the other respondents were accused of violating the anti-graft law for entering into a contract grossly disadvantageous to the government and which was overpriced and done without public bidding.

The contract allegedly cost the government more than P4.5 million, the bulk of which was financed through a loan from the Belgian government while the rest was shouldered by the Philippine government.

The project involved the removal and containment of some 2.83 million cubic meters of silt, debris and sediment materials from the river and over a three-kilometer stretch from the Del Pan bridge towards the Manila Bay and another 17-kilometer stretch towards the Napindan flood gate.

The city government averred in its complaint that the dredging contract was priced at roughly P3,000 per cubic meter when the prevailing price for such project should only be about P200 per cubic meter.

It further alleged that the respondents did not complete the project as no proof was shown that the waste materials dug from the river were properly disposed by burying them under the Manila Bay as specified in the contract.

Instead, Atienza and his co-respondents allowed the transport of the dredged materials to be dumped at the southern coast of Manila Bay near Bacoor, Cavite for use as filling materials in a land reclamation project, thus posing a health risks to residents in the area.

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