Saturday, May 19, 2018

DOTr Refutes False and Malicious Allegations Made by Asec. Mark Tolentino, says Mindanao Railway will be World-Class and Completed in 2021

Wazzup Pilipinas!
DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan, fires back and refuted the false, misleading, and uninformed statements made by DOTr Assistant Secretary Mark Tolentino during an unauthorized press conference held yesterday afternoon, 18 May 2018, on the Mindanao Railway Project, and at media interviews that followed.
"I would like to think that what we have here is a miscommunication, resulting from a person's refusal to understand relevant issues, and what appears to be a trickle of malice," Usec. TJ Batan said.
During a presscon, Asec. Tolentino made a false allegation that he was being stopped from speaking about the Mindanao Railway Project. He said:
"Pinipigilan akong magsalita kasi I don't know why... I am authorized to talk... Unauthorized daw ako... I have a Special Order... Is there a sense to stop me... Anong basis nila to stop me.... Sabi [ni USec. Batan] stop it wag ka muna magsalita kasi I don't know kung ano mga palusot niya."
According to Usec. Batan, Asec. Tolentino's statements are false on two levels.
“One, Asec. Tolentino was not stopped from speaking, he was only asked to postpone his press con to give deference to ongoing high level discussions about the best strategy to implement Mindanao Railway; and two, Asec. Tolentino was fully informed of the reason why he was asked to postpone his press con, but he refused to listen and understand,” he said.
Usec. Batan clarified that he gave an instruction to Asec. Tolentino to defer, not to stop, the press con, so as not to pre-empt decisions that are yet to be discussed in a high level meeting.
"I told him, and I quote: Just to be clear, all I'm saying is for the press con to be postponed until after our strategy is firmed up based on the upcoming meeting of Ambassador Zhao and SoTr [Secretary of Transportation]. Let us please give deference to our principal, and not pre-empt him with a press con that will likely raise issues that we know will be the subject of upcoming principals' discussions," Usec. Batan said.
The ongoing multi-agency and government-to-government discussions are aimed at evaluating whether to finance Phase 1 of Mindanao Railway with Official Development Assistance (ODA) from China.
Since China already expressed intent to finance the future phases of Mindanao Railway, there is concern that if Phase 1 is not implemented by China, it will be more difficult to get China's support for the much longer future phases of the Mindanao Railway Project.
"Discussions are ongoing among the economic managers and between two governments on how to best ensure that the entire Mindanao Railway is built (not just a small part of it), and at the same time ensuring fast completion. What we are working on building is as much as 1,500-km. of railways in Mindanao. We cannot afford to be short-sighted, especially when the objective is that big," Usec. Batan said.
"These are the issues that are being discussed in ongoing high level discussions, which is why Asec. Tolentino was instructed to postpone his press con. The discussions are likely to be completed by next week, but apparently that's too long for Asec. Tolentino to wait. Ang mga usapan pong ‘yan ay hindi itinatago dahil involved po diyan hindi lamang ang DOTr management, kundi pati na rin po ang lahat ng ahensya na nangangasiwa sa Build Build Build program ni Pangulong Duterte. Gusto lang po sana naming mailatag ang buong stratehiya para sa Mindanao Railway, at ‘yan po ang dahilan kung bakit sana ay na postpone ang press con ni Asec. Tolentino as instructed," Usec. Batan added.
Usec. Batan further said "Sometimes it is easier to dismiss an issue by name-calling, instead of exerting effort to study and understand. Large scale infrastructure projects get built with hard work, diligence in understanding complex issues that ensure successful implementation, and perseverance in resolving issues that will lead to project failure. Mindanao Railway will not be built with name-calling, rumor mongering, and grandstanding."
For her part, DOTr Director for Communications Goddes Hope Libiran questioned Asec. Tolentino's claim that he has a Special Order authorizing him to speak about the Mindanao Railway.
“Two points. One, the same Special Order also states: "The Assistant Secretary shall directly report to the Secretary and Undersecretary for Railways;" and two, as explained by Usec. Batan to Asec. Tolentino, Sec. Tugade has issued a Memorandum setting a Media Affairs Protocol, which requires that before a press con is held, the endorsement of the concerned Undersecretary, the Director for Communications, and the Secretary are needed. Unfortunately, Asec. Tolentino defied that protocol,” she said.
“Asec. Mark Tolentino's press con yesterday was not only unauthorized pursuant to the DOTr media protocol-- it was held in defiance of clear, repeated, and explained instructions coming from me, Usec. Batan, and, most importantly, Sec. Tugade,” she added. 
Dir. Libiran likewise said she was dismayed by Asec. Tolentino’s arrogance and continued use of the name of President Duterte and certain “members of the first family” in his malicious and unfounded claims.

“When he was unauthorized and sanctioned by his superiors to hold the press con and was instructed to postpone it, he then publicly claimed that he is only accountable and responsible to the President, and that he has the blessing of “members of the first family”. That was on record. He’s an expert in name-droppings. In more times than three, he would name-drop relatives of the President to secure what he wants and impress people with his alleged connections. The Secretary and the management of DOTr just smile at his antics because we all know the personal directive of the President—no name-dropping of and by relatives of the President,” she said.

“Let me also point out that all of us are responsible and accountable to the President. But, saying that in the context of unfounded anger, setting aside the instruction of his undersecretary, Usec. TJ Batan, and DOTr Secretary Art Tugade, is arrogance in its highest order,” she added.

On dilawan, arrogance, and salivation for power

The DOTr wishes to clarify that this was not the first time for Asec. Tolentino to resort to name-calling when he said the following at his Friday afternoon presscon:

"Tapos somebody tries to stop this, she's just a director, can a director stop an Asec.? Can a director stop a presidential appointee? Yun ang tanong dito. And, I'm sure yung director na yan ang nag utos niya ay isang dilawan, so may dilawan po dito sa DOTr. And I'll assure you na malalaman po natin yan in the near future."

Unknown to many, Asec. Tolentino presented himself as a candidate for the position of Undersecretary for Railways when it was opened in November 2017.

“I think we have here a person salivating for power. And, he uses lies, deceit, arrogance, and misrepresentation just to satisfy his salivation. Just because he was not appointed as Usec. for Railways, to which he applied, and that Sec. Tugade and Malacañang opted to choose Usec TJ over him, manggugulo na siya. Ang ayos ayos na sa DOTr ngayon. ‘Wag niyang siraan at guluhin because of his unknown agenda. Sasabihin nya sa press con “Can a Director stop an Assistant Secretary? Can a Director stop a presidential appointee? Just to clarify, sinusunod ko lang po kung ano ang instruction sa akin. Ginagawa ko lang po ang trabaho ko. Ikaw, Sir, tanong ko lang. Can an Assistant Secretary grossly and intentionally defy orders from his Undersecretary, worse, his Secretary?,” Dir. Libiran said.

Short in experience and background in the railways sector, in large scale infrastructure development, and in transportation in general, he resorted to name calling and charging Usec. TJ Batan as "dilawan" for having started his public service in the previous administration.

Contrary to attempts at misinformation, Usec. Batan only joined the then DOTC towards the end of Oct. 2015, was with the DOTC for a little over 6 months, and was only a contractual employee.

Hence, the issue on "dilawan" which Asec. Tolentino appears to be unable to move on with has been raised and considered a non-issue when Sec. Tugade and Malacañang made a decision to appoint Usec. Batan as Undersecretary for Railways.

Mindanao Railway will be world-class and will finish in 2021
First funded in 1957 with Republic Act No. 2012, studied in 1995, studied in 2001, studied in 2009, and again studied in 2014, it was only under President Duterte's Build Build Build program that the Mindanao Railway was finally approved by the NEDA Board as a DOTr project in June 2017. Based on that approval, Phase 1 (Tagum-Davao-Digos) will be completed in 2021, and DOTr is on track with that completion date.
During the design process, which started in the 3rd quarter of 2017, Sec. Tugade gave firm instructions to double track and electrify Phase 1, to be of the same class as the railway projects being developed in Luzon.
This was the status of the Mindanao Railway Project even before Asec. Tolentino was appointed as Assistant Secretary in December 2017.
The DOTr, even before Asec. Tolentino's appointment, already achieved what has not been done in the last six decades -- to go beyond repeated studies, to get investment approval, and to swiftly advance the design process for Phase 1 of the Mindanao Railway.
Asec. Tolentino was naturally silent about it in his press con, but the timeline for Mindanao Railway was actually compromised because of a misinformed document that he issued in April 2018, which led to confusion and delay in the evaluation by the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) of a DOTr request. That confusion has since been clarified, and DOTr and GPPB are currently catching up to close the delay caused by Asec. Tolentino.
 “I assure the public that we, at the DOTr, under the leadership of Secretary Tugade will not let anything derail the Mindanao Railway Project. We treat this as a priority project. Our brothers and sisters in Mindanao deserve the best, and we will deliver it to them, as promised by President Duterte,” Usec. TJ Batan said.

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