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The Commission on Audit has questioned the spending ways of former Tourism Promotion Board (TPB) chief operating officer Cesar Montano after it uncovered anomalies in the actor’s disbursement in 2017 of P58.169 million worth of sponsorship deals and financial assistant to event organizers.

In its annual audit report, COA, which has demanded a refund of these unliquidated funds, broke down how Montano mindlessly forked out these funds ranging from P50,000 to P12.034 million:

1) Sponsorship deals were approved without considering the TPB’s return on investments. The proponents did not even make an effort to explain why they needed the financial assistance and how these projects from concerts to boxing matches would help promote Philippine tourism.

2) TPB failed to evaluate the recipients’ capacity to hold these supposedly tourism promotion events. The financial statements were submitted only after the signing of the memorandum of agreement.

3)All recipients were mandated to shoulder at least 20 percent of the project cost but most recipients of Montano’s generosity did not have sufficient funds to finance these projects.

Among the anomalous TPB doleouts cited by COA were:

1) Philippine Exhibits and Theme Parks Corp.’s (PETCO) “Christmas exhibit and bazaar under the Intramuros Revival Project, a pet project of former Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo. TPB gave PETCO P12.034 million on top of the P15.884 million given by Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (chaired by Teo). COA aid PETCO shelled out only P3 million or less than 10 percent of the total project cost of P30.919 million. COA said PETCO got the subsidy despite having a low rating from the TPB project officer. PETCO also faled to give TPB its share of the revenues from the project.

2) TPB gave P4 million to organizers of the Battle of Palawan held on November 10, 2017 for the “55th Oriental and Pacific Boxing Federation Convention.” COA said Montano endorsed the subsidy “to further strengthen the sport of boxing and to discover the next boxing superstar.”

3) TPB paid P10.5 million net of taxes to organizers of the “Fusion 2017: Forward, the Phil. Music Festival Year 3” January 27,2017 at the SM Mall of Asia Concert grounds which was P500,000 more than what was stated on the MOA. COA also questioned why the organizers paid only two per cent expanded tax and five per cent for valued added tax.

4) TPB gave P1 million to the Automobile Association of the Philippine Inc. (AAAPI) for its Metro Manila Tourism Forum in February 2017 even though the MOA was only for P500,000. COA said TPB did not evaluate the grant to AAAPI and did not ask for its share of the revenues from attendees’ registration fees/entrance fees/booth rental generated by AAPI.

5) TPB paid nearly double or P2.45 million for the Asia Premium Travel Mart (APTM) which only spent P1.523 million for the hotel accommodation of attendees.”The event organizer explained that instead of paying the hotels the entire P2.45 million, they forged an ex deal agreement wherein the hotel owners got booths with APTM thus, saved P0.927 million. TPB did not require the refund of the saved amount,” said COA.

“In our opinion, TPB has to prudently manage government funds and avoid granting financial sponsorship/assistance to proponents which expenses are recoverable from the income of the event/project. Those who failed to liquidate and submit supporting documents for the fund granted should be required to refund. Evaluation should include estimated income to be derived from the project, the equitable shares of both the proponent and the government from such revenues to properly estimate the reasonable amount for the FA,” said COA.

COA also noted only 24 percent of the P54.533 million worth of financial assistance had been liquidated by 11 of the 29 private firms that received TPB subsidies.Only a handful submitted aterminal report. COA said this prevented TPB from conducting post evaluation on the effectiveness of the strategies in promoting tourism and was not able to verify and account the exact disbursements/utilization of the financial assistance.

COA noted that the sponsorships were released after the implementation of the events which shoed that “the private entities were capable of funding said activities, thus there was no need for TPB to provide financial assistance.”

COA said these projects did not help the agency’s goals as “the additional mileage only promoted the TPB’s as major sponsor and not the Philippine tourists spots/destinations.”

Cesar Montano milked TPB’s budget to travel world on business class along with 3 aides helping him do his job – COA