Risky business: Domingo tags Cynthia Villar as main backer of Bulacan cargo inspection facility on property owned by Pacific Roadlink of Magsaysay Group and Alvin Go

A congressional leader has raised concerns with the Department of Agriculture regarding its proposal to allocate P2.3 billion for an agriculture Cold Examination Facility (CEFA) on privately-owned land in Bulacan, citing worries about possible spike in prices of farm goods and corruption allegations.

During the hearing on the DA’s 2024 budget, House Deputy Majority Leader and Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin questioned why the government insisted on building a first border inspection facility on a private property in Angat, Bulacan of Pacific Roadlink Logistics.

Based on data obtained from the Securities and Exchange Commission, Pacific Roadlink was incorporated in September 2014 by a group led by Magsaysay Shipping and Logistics Group (MSL) president and CEO Jesse H. Maxwell and businessman Alvin A. Go.

DA Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban revealed that it was Senator Cynthia Villar who personally pushed for the controversial project.

“It has been agreed that we shall do it in Bulacan because Senator Villar has contracted the land owner, and the owners of the land that has to be the site of the border area,” said Panganiban.

Panganiban said the project has already been launched two months ago and he expected it to be operational before the end of the year.

“We are now in the process of buying the facilities that will be put into the place,” said Panganiban.

Garin asked Panganiban if he was not a bit concerned that the DA’s P2.3 billion funds would be used to develop a private property in a deal which did not pass through public bidding and would give Pacific Roadlink a virtual monopoly of the trucks that would transport the farm goods for inspection from Manila and Subic..

Panganiban replied: “Hindi po naman dahil sabi po ni Senator Villar it is a Memorandum of Understanding between the land owner and the government for that matter.”

However, Garin remained skeptical, stating, “I have great respect for Senator Villar; however, my point here is that private land and government programs can be a rather intricate combination.”

Garin was worried that the DA was taking significant risks by using government funds within a private facility.

“While the concept is good, medyo kabado ako na ang pera ng taumbayan ay gagastusin natin sa isang pribadong facility. Kasi baka mamaya pagka nagkaproblema, matamaan ‘yung ating mga DA officials, magka-kaso kaso sila, who will protect them?” said Garin.

The DA initially agreed to construct the country’s first CEFA at the Subic Freeport Zone in 2021, allocating an initial budget of P500 million for a 2,000-square meter facility.

But the DA inexplicably abandoned the Subic project and instead shifted its focus to Pacific Roadlink.

This company specializing in container yards and trucking, and it committed to invest P1.5 billion to develop its 10-hectare property in Bulacan at no expense to the government. Panganiban noted that the government would return the property to Pacific Roadlink after 25 or 50 years.

Garin recommended that the DA use the P2.3 billion instead to directly help struggling local farmers.

She feared that forcing all agricultural imports to go through the Bulacan CEFA which is some distance from the gateways in Manila and Subic could only add more fuel to the surging prices of farm goods and make it more difficult for the Marcos administration to rein in inflation.

“Ang lagay ngayon nyan dadagdag yan sa gastusin ng kakainin ng bawat pamilyang Pilipino because the vegetables, the fish the meat, everything that we are actually importing, other cost additional cost will redound back to the Filipinos,” said Garin.

According to a 2016 report by the Port Calls Asia news site, Pacific Roadlink operated four depots: one in Bulacan, one in Malvar, and two in Malabon, Batangas, serving international shipping lines, along with one in Cabuyao, which handled domestic empty containers.

Additionally, Pacific Roadlink owned 20 hectares of land capable of accommodating 20,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) and maintained a fleet consisting of 200 trucks and container-handling equipment.

ALSO READ:

Eh ano kung walang bidding at malayo sa Manila, Subic? Lobbyist Rosendo So defends Bulacan cold cargo inspection site and trucking monopoly snagged by Pacific Roadlink

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