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DOTC urged to probe land acquisitions by CAAP, ATO

MANILA, Philippines - A special investigator who has blown the whistle on various anomalies at the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and the Air Transportation Office (ATO) called on the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) yesterday to look into the multibillion-peso land acquisitions during the time of former secretaries Pantaleon Alvarez and Leandro Mendoza.

CAAP special investigator Cesar Lucero, who was allegedly unceremoniously transferred to the Puerto Princesa airport, claimed that the multibillion land acquisitions for the construction of new or rehabilitation of old airports funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and European Investment Bank (EIB) under the Third Airports Development Project were a rich source of plunder and graft cases against DOTC and ATO officials during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Lucero said having been an investigator assigned to the ATO’s legal service, he found several transactions highly anomalous.

He said dubious land claimants were questionably and quickly paid by the DOTC from the ADB and EIB fund.

He expressed willingness to Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II to join a probe, which can be led by the department’s Investigation, Security, and Law Enforcement Service.

Among the airport projects pursued during the time of Alvarez and Mendoza were the Davao International Airport, Bacolod-Silay International Airport, Iloilo Cabatuan Airport, Puerto Princesa Airport, and Laguindingan Airport.

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Earlier, Lucero was cited for stopping a dubious land claim worth P41 million in 2005.

As vice president of the CAAP-EU, he revealed the safety concerns raised by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on the Philippines’ civil aviation systems in December 2009.

The report indicated the country’s continuing failure to address compliance with ICAO safety and security standards despite the supposed vigorous Philippine government efforts to upgrade them.

The Philippines’ aviation category was thus downgraded by the US Federal Aviation Authority in 2007 from Category I to II.

Lucero had also filed graft cases against CAAP officials during the time of CAAP director general Ruben Ciron for questionable transactions.

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