SAYING those behind the botched multimillion-dollar NorthRail project should be in jail, a senator has asked the Finance Department to update the Senate on the legal efforts of the government to hold accountable those responsible for the fiasco.
During last Wednesday’s briefing of the Development Budget Coordinating Council (DBCC) at the Senate, Francis Escudero inquired about the status of the case and if anyone had been charged for the NorthRail mess.
“I presumed it was scrapped because of the corruption allegations associated with it. But do you agree, Secretary, that someone should pay for this? We are paying so much for something we did not continue, that the Filipino people did not benefit from,” Escudero asked Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima.
Purisima agreed with Escudero but admitted that he is not familiar with the stage of the investigation of the mess although he is well aware of the financial aspect of the project.
The NorthRail project, which was introduced in 2003 during the administration of President Gloria Arroyo, is an 80-kilometer train system that would connect Metro Manila and Clark in Pampanga.
The project was given to the China National Machinery and Equipment Corp. (CNMEC) for an original contract cost of $421 million.
It was funded by a government loan of $400 million from China’s Exim Bank and the balance to be sourced from the Development Bank of the Philippines.
CNMEC increased the contract price to $593 million in 2009, with the government agreeing to shoulder the added cost.
In 2011, President Benigno Aquino 3rd scrapped the project after legal questions and allegations of corruption hounded the train project.
During the DBCC hearing, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon told the finance committee that the government had paid part of its sovereign obligation to China Exim Bank amounting to about $180 million.
“But we still have an outstanding obligation. The commercial component to parties is about $50 million,” she told the Escudero committee.
“What did we get out of this, if any? We didn’t get anything out of it, anything usable, nothing. Despite the extravaganza of corruption and wasted taxpayers money no one is in jail yet. With this money, P9 billion, someone should be hauled to jail,” Escudero said.