PPA GM post still in limbo

Published July 14, 2022, 4:34 PM

by Emmie V. Abadilla

The man who takes the helm of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) will be a ship owner and port operator who controls 20 percent of the state agency’s ports and owes P132.1 million in unpaid penalties to the Department of Transportation ( DOTr).

That is, if the government pushes through with the appointment of Christopher Pastrana as PPA General Manager (GM) at the end of this month, according to port operators and ship owners.

On June 23, a week before his inauguration as the Philippines’ 17th President, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appointed Pastrana as PPA GM.

Pastrana took his oath in Malacañang on June 30. However, he never reported for duty at the PPA on his supposed to be first day in office, on July 4, and the post remained vacant for a week.

Then DOTr Special Order No. 2022-129 designated career official Manuel Boholano as PPA officer-in-charge (OIC) GM, effective July 1 to 31.

Up to now, everyone’s in the dark as to what happens when the order lapses, come August 1.

So far, Pastrana’s appointment as PPA GM has not been withdrawn. It remains status quo.

And port operators and ship owners are lambasting Pastrana’s appointment as blatant conflict of interest.

Pastrana is the President of Archipelago Philippines Ferries Corporation (APFC), which operates FastCat catarman-type roll-on/roll-off vessels, as well as ports and terminals.

He is also President of Philharbor Ferries and Port Services, Inc. (PFPSI).

PFPSI partly owns Bacolod Real Estate Development Corp. (Bredco), which operates a private-commercial port in Bacolod City’s 250-hectare reclamation area.

In addition, his daughters own Philippine Archipelago Ports and Terminal Services, Inc. (PAPTSI).

PFPSI and PAPTSI both operate PPA port terminals.

Pastrana’s brother-in-law, Rommel Ibuna, is also a big port operator and owns Prudential Customs Brokerage Services, Inc.

Overall, Pastrana, his daughters and his brother-in-law operate over 18 ports, some 20 percent of the ports in the PPA portfolio.

Critics maintain that this conflict of interest legally disqualifies Pastrana from the PPA post.

As PPA GM, he will be regulating his own business along with those of his family and calling the shots in the businesses of their rivals.

On top of his vested interests in port and shipping, Pastrana still owes the DOTr P132.1 million in unpaid monthly amortizations and accumulated interest for his vessels Maharlika Uno and Maharlika Dos, acquired nine years ago.

He can easily find a way to avoid repaying his debt to the government, once he becomes PPA GM, critics maintained.

And he is quite well-connected to the Palace, they alleged.

Dennis Trajano, the brother-in-law of Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez (husband of his wife’s sister), is Pastrana’s business partner.

At present, Trajano sits as a chairman of the board in three of Pastrana’s companies.