Foul air ballooned


    That is that photograph in the local papers of the smiling triumvirate of  Clark International Airport Corporation President and CEO Victor Jose Luciano, Clark Development Corporation President and CEO Benigno Ricafort, and Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Foundation Inc.  President Capt. Joy Roa joining hands – as the caption said – for the 15th Hot Air Balloon Fiesta slated in February next year.

    Beaming their approval were CDC Executive Vice-President Philip Panlilio and CIAC Executive Vice-President and COO Alexander Cauguiran.

    So the photo caption informed us that a memorandum of agreement has been signed by the three parties for the annual ballooning event at Clark.

    So what is in that memo of agreement, we would like to know. Not so much to satisfy our lust for information as for the need for transparency where transactions involving Roa’s hot airs in Clark are concerned.   

    Not too long ago, this paper came out with the news story ‘Hot Air Balloon fest organizer treats Clark people like dirt’ that so raged me to cry in a column: “Banish this freeloading hot air from Clark. This character that goes by the moniker Roa should even be declared persona non grata in the Metro Clark area.”

    Why the violent reaction? Here’s what I wrote under the head Balloon burst:

    The Hot Air Baloon Festival was held last February yet, and its organizer, notably this one Roa, has yet to submit financial statements to the Clark Development Corp.

    So why should he do so? Because the CDC doled out P3.5 million for the balloon festival to, as provided for in a memorandum of agreement, “help finance the design services and production costs of promotions and for all media launch which will be held separately in Manila and Clark Freeport for the said project.”

    There was no media launch at the Clark Freeport, in so far as the local media are concerned. The Pampanga mediamen were even barred from covering the event unless they paid P100 as entrance fee.

    The organizing Hot Air Balloon Club of the Philippines inc. (HABCPI) of Roa reported that 5,731 complimentary tickets were given out. Not one local mediaman received any.

    Yeah, the HABCPI may have been treating Clark people like dirt. But they certainly treated the local media like muck.

    So did the CDC get its money’s worth in the balloon fest?

    I was there the second day of the event, and the only name I heard blared from the loudspeakers was Roa! Roa! Roa!

    So what promotion did Clark get? Other than being the site of the annual Hot Air Balloon festival, what lasting impression of Clark did the crowd take home with them?

    The CDC has got to think of its priorities in promoting the Freeport, if only in the cost-effectiveness aspect and the image it wanted to project. 

    Sir BNR – that’s CDC President-CEO Benny N. Ricafort for you – the last time I summoned the spirit of RA 7227, Clark is still supposed to be locus for labor-intensive, investment-driven, export-oriented haven. Not hot air balloon site.

    That P3.5 million promotional fee given to HABCPI is one fetid-aired balloon that burst in the face of the CDC. A costly indulgence of Roa’s fancy. And that was only for 2009. Think how much the CDC had granted to Roa through the years the balloon fest ran at Clark.

    Think now how many road shows or investment missions P3.5 million could have funded. And getting much better returns for Clark.

    It is incumbent upon the CDC to make this Roa and his group account for that P3.5 million they got. Along with however much they had taken from the CDC in all the years that they held the balloon fest. For Allah’s sake, that’s government money – and therefore subject to liquidation and auditing procedures. Otherwise, the CDC is inviting itself to the Ombudsman’s lair.

    Then, there is too the need for a proper accounting of gate receipts, parking fees, stall rentals, etcetera that, someone at the CDC whispered, all got into Roa’s pockets – allegedly. That’s immense cash crop there.

    In this year’s edition of the balloon fest, our CDC mole reported that at least 49,638 tickets were sold and 5,735 vehicles parked in the designated pay-parking area during the four-day period. Yeah, immense cash crop there.

    And no financial statements required of Roa for all this?

    The CDC is treating this Roa like royalty. Or, the CDC has conferred upon him the first ever most-preferred-locator-at-large at the Freeport. 

    Makes me want to pass gas.

    Yes, and now even the CIAC joined the CDC in paying obeisance to this Roa. That means more subsidy in government money to indulge Roa’s fancy. No need to liquidate too.

    Yeah, really makes me want to fart right to the very noses of these Clark bosses.


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