Del Rosario takes allegations on overpriced passports “with a grain of salt”

By on August 12, 2016

Former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and US Secretary of State John Kerry. (Photo courtesy of The Embassy of the United States of America to the Philippines)
FILE PHOTO: Former Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario (left) with US Secretary of State John Kerry (right).
(Photo courtesy of The Embassy of the United States of America to the Philippines)

MANILA—Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario on Thursday said that he will be taking allegation pitted on him and other former secretaries on the overpriced printing of Philippine passports “with a grain of salt” noting that he was willing to show documents if necessary.

To recall, anti-corruption watchdog Anti-Trapo Movement (ATM) earlier this week filed a complaint before the Ombudsman on the allegedly overpriced Php 859.7-million contract on e-passports produced by French firm Oberthur Technologies.

ATM said that anomalies began during the Arroyo administration but continued until the Aquino administration—under Del Rosario’s watch when the contract to print the passports was awarded to the APO Production Unit.

Del Rosario, who was secretary from February 2011 to March 2016, explained that the contract was given to APO because the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas did not agree to print the passports.

“We can show documentation that the Bangko Sentral officially told us that they don’t want to do this anymore. We had to look for another provider,” Del Rosario told reporters in an interview.

“If you look at laws of how passports can be produced, you can only source this from three authorized government printers, in addition to Bangko Sentral, we have National Printing Office (NPO) and APO,” he added.

Del Rosario explained that NPO also expressed disinterest, so the DFA had to work with APO and got other agencies to help in terms of vetoing the capability and contractual provisions.

He said that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), the National Economic Development Authority (NESDA), the Department of Science and Technology, the Office of the President and other agencies were involved in vetting the contract with APO.

The Secretary said that the DFA signed the contract with the Bangko Sentral but later found out that there was a third party contractor to APO and whether the contractor provided a cost-effective service to APO.

“We have nothing to do with that. We don’t even know who this contractor is,” Del Rosario said.

“Whoever is making these allegations should look into the details that transpired here,” he added.

He meanwhile said that he “felt” for the DFA staff suffering from low-morale for having what he described as a “tarnished reputation” because of the allegations.