Nothing wrong with Aboitiz pocket money – Duterte

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/5 April) – For Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the city councilors committed nothing wrong when they accepted the P6,000 pocket money from Aboitiz Power Corp. during a field trip to Misamis Oriental last January to check on a coal-fired power plant there.

What is more inappropriate, he said, is for the city government to spend money for the purpose.

“Unsa man ang gusto ninyo, mogasto ang Aboitiz o ang city government ang mogasto para sa Aboitiz (What do you want, for Aboitiz to spend money for the councilors’ trip or for the city government to spend for Aboitiz)?” he asked during the taping of his television program, “Ato ni, Bay” Tuesday.

Duterte was reacting to what his daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte, said about the city councilors accepting the money. The mayor said it was “inappropriate” because it could affect their stand on an issue that concerns public interest.

Aboitiz is in the process of getting the city council’s nod on a proposed P25-billion 300-megawatt coal-fired power plant to be built in the city’s outskirts in Toril District, a project that is being opposed by environmentalist groups who claimed that it will pose risks to the public’s health and the environment.

On invitation by Aboitiz, two groups of city councilors have earlier made the trip to Villanueva, Misamis Oriental outside Cagayan de Oro City to visit the coal-fired plant partly-owned by Aboitiz and Steag to help them decide whether or not to endorse the proposed coal-fired plant here.

“Bribery? It is the job of the councilors to go there and see for themselves whether the coal-fired plant by Aboitiz is good or bad,” Duterte said. “What’s inappropriate,” he added, “is for the city government to appropriate money for the trip.”

For the vice mayor, Aboitiz should spend for the trip because it is their project. “I can’t ask them (Aboitiz) to bring their STEAG plant to Davao so that I can inspect it,” Duterte said.

“Did we go there for pleasure? We didn’t go there to partake of a sumptuous meal, it was work,” he added.

Published reports said that aside from Aboitiz shouldering the cost of transportation, food and accommodation for the Steag plant visit, the power firm handed out the P6,000 for shopping or “pasalubong.”

Duterte, who publicly expressed support for the project, said the city has no other choice but to accept coal-fired power plant if only to address the projected power shortage in 2014.

But even as he is backing the coal-fired plant, the vice mayor also said the country has to wean itself from continued reliance on fossil-based power sources because the depleting supply is making it expensive.

He stressed, however, that he was referring not to coal, but oil, whose prices have gone up following the political uprising that rocked the oil-rich countries of the Middle East.

Environmentalist have warned that coal, as a fossil-based power source, is not inexhaustible, and that its prices will be vulnerable to fluctuations. (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews)