Solons warn Duty Free execs on deals with foreign firms

October 09, 2018

TWO congressmen yesterday warned officials of Duty Free Philippines Corporation (DFPC) against possible violation of existing laws for entering into concession agreements with Hongkong-based suppliers for the supply of billions of peso-worth merchandise.

1-PACMAN party-list Rep. Mikee Romero and Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako-Bicol party-list said DFPC officials could face charges for possible violation of the Retail Trade Law and Republic Act 9184 or the Procurement Act which prescribes stiffer penalties for  foreigners.

During yesterday’s House committee on good government and public accountability hearing chaired by Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus Romualdo, Romero warned  the state-run firm DFPC for dealing with Jose Ma.Esteban III, who represents one of the foreign companies.

“I think there is conflict of interest here.  I don’t think he should in any way be doing business with duty free,” said Romero.

Esteban was the first general manager of DFPC who was appointed to the post in 1987 by then President Corazon C. Aquino.  He served as the retailer of imported products until 1992.

The panel conducted the hearing inquiry into allegedly anomalous contracts  involving DFPC.   Present during the hearing were DFPC officials headed by Vicente Angala, chief operating officer, and board members.

Romero asked the House panel to invite in the next hearing owners and representatives of the foreign firms that DFPC tapped to supply them with imported merchandise and food sold in duty free stores in the Philippines.

Romero identified the firms as Landmark Management P and C Ltd.; Sportmart Limited, Tonghorn Trading Limited, Transwell Worldwide Ltd., Viewpoint Trading Ltd., Yearsley (F.E) Ltd; Colomba Management (HK) Ltd., EDF Management (Services) LTD; ETC Holdings (HK) Ltd., Goldpoly Company Ltd., Home and Office Ltd., Landmark Management Srvices (LTD). All are based in Hongkong.

He even complained that none of the companies was represented at the hearing.

“Every time you enter into such SDA, these will be considered recurring criminal acts. You have to be very careful about these because you can be implicated,” Romero told the DFPC officials.

Asked if DFPC may have violated the Retail Trade Act for awarding the Hong Kong firms with huge “supply and delivery agreements (SDA)”, lawyer Carlo Castilo, the firm’s lawyer, replied to Romero “this is possible.”

For his part, Batocabe said there is a possibility that graft charges will also be filed against the DFPC officials, saying the contracts appeared to be disadvantageous to the government.

“These are foreign owned firms that are operating outside the country. How can we sue them in case there are serious violations they committed in the contract,” stated Batocabe.