Tugade defends SALNs that lack details on his offshore firm

Ramon Royandoyan - Philstar.com
Tugade defends SALNs that lack details on his offshore firm
This file photo shows Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.
Geremy Pintolo, file

MANILA, Philippines — Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade’s wealth declarations since becoming a public official lack details on his offshore company, according to a report that called on authorities to look into the Cabinet member’s business dealings.

Tugade’s name appeared in a massive data leak of some 11.9 million documents reported by the ICIJ media consortium, which found that several government officials around the world have used offshore firms to cloak their wealth.

On Monday, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism reported that the transportation chief has insufficiently disclosed information about his offshore company in any of his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

Tugade on Tuesday said his family invested some of their “savings” offshore “to grow our financial portfolio like what any astute and judicious entrepreneurs would do.” He said these investments were disclosed in his SALNs.

“The same has consistently been disclosed in my sworn SALN under ‘Personal Properties – Intangible’, particularly, as ‘Offshore Investments’ from 2012 to 2020. In the said period, the account barely moved,” the transportation chief said.

While Tugade’s SALNs indeed indicated “offshore investments” worth P57 million as assets every year since 2012, former Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) chief Kim Henares was quoted by PCIJ as saying that the transportation chief’s wealth disclosures might be “lacking”.

According to PCIJ, a member of the ICIJ consortium, Tugade has been listed as a director of Solart Holdings Limited, a British Virgin Islands-based firm, at least since 2007 — something that was not specified in his SALN.

“When you say ‘offshore investment,’ that can mean cash deposits in banks [outside of the country] or shares of companies abroad. If it’s the former, then he has properly disclosed his assets, but if [it is supposed to mean he has an offshore company], then his SALNs are lacking,” Henares said.

It is not illegal to have assets abroad or to use shell companies, but ICIJ’s report could put government officials who may have campaigned against tax avoidance and corruption in a bad light. At home, President Rodrigo Duterte, Tugade’s boss, pushed for tax reforms that include an overhaul of fiscal incentives granted to investors, which his administration says cost the state billions of revenues.

“I am not hiding anything. I will answer all questions and accusations in the appropriate forums and manner,” Tugade said.

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