TOURISM Promotions Board (TPB) Chief Operating Officer Cesar Montano is back but has yet to issue an official statement regarding a questionable P80 million project, which he spearheads.
The Manila Times called the office of Montano on Wednesday and was told that he was now in Manila. His staff though refused to give any details and pointed to the Marketing Communications department for information on the controversy.
“He reported to work very late in the afternoon yesterday [Tuesday]. I don’t know if he came straight from the airport or from somewhere else, but I saw him,” Cristy Navarro of the Marketing Communications Department told The Manila Times in a phone interview.
She said that they were aware that the issue about Montano was all over the media – TV, radio, print and digital – and they were still pondering on the possibility of the board of directors issuing a unified official statement.
Named “Buhay Carinderia—Redefined,” the project involved staging an event that will feature Filipino street food and local eateries.
But newly appointed Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat wanted to know whether proper procedures were followed.
“I want to know what is the budget, what he [Montano] plans to do. I have to ask whoever the organizer is, did it go thought proper bidding?” the new tourism chief said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel’s “Headstart.”
The standard practice of government disbursement is to pay in tranches, with the last payment made after the completion of the project.
“If I find out there’s a contract that did not undergo bidding, I will have to cancel,” she said.
She also said that the actor appointed by Duterte to the TPB post would have to clarify allegations that he attended an official speaking engagement in the United States but told the audience that he needed to leave immediately to catch a Broadway show. Montano, according to reports, talked for only two minutes.
The new tourism chief also pointed out that Montano’s term as TPB head has expired and was just on holdover capacity. It would be up to tourism stakeholders to determine whether his tenure should be extended.
“Under the Tourism Act of 2009, it is the Tourism Congress of the Philippines that elects a chair. The law says it is the private sector who will elect the members of the TPB. So to me, it’s nothing personal. Whoever they elect, I will follow,” she said.
This wasn’t the first time that Montano was embroiled in controversy.
In March 2017, Montano was at the center of a storm when employees of the agency raised their concerns on the alleged misuse of funds by the actor’s relatives, demanding reimbursements of expenses incurred while vacationing during supposed official business trips.
The TPB management committee released an official statement about the issue saying, “Given the gravity of these charges, and the irregularities, the TPB management committee welcomes the immediate investigation of the matter and commits its full cooperation, guaranteeing transparency of the agency in the entire process.”
President Duterte defended Montano, saying the actor is rich and will not tarnish his reputation for a few millions of pesos.
On Tuesday, Romulo-Puyat urged all incumbent DOT undersecretaries and assistant secretaries to tender their unqualified courtesy resignations to the President through her until May 21, “except career officials as defined by pertinent civil service laws, rules and regulations.
First to hand in his courtesy resignation on Tuesday was Undersecretary Frederick Alegre.
Aside from TPB, the other agencies attached to the DOT are Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), Duty-Free Philippines Corporation, Intramuros Administration, National Parks Development Committee, Nayong Pilipino Foundation, Philippine Retirement Authority and Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving).