Manila: The head of the Pasig River rehabilitation was terminated by President Rodrigo Duterte amid allegations that the latter was abusing his position.

Jose Antonio Goitia, executive director of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), was ordered sacked by Duterte, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo announced late Tuesday in a regular palace briefing.

“The termination is made pursuant to the president’s continuing mandate to eradicate graft and corruption, and to ensure that public officials and employees conduct themselves in a manner worthy of public trust,” Panelo said.

“We hope that this shall serve as another example that this administration does not — and will never — tolerate corrupt practices in the bureaucracy and in public service,” Panelo added.

The PRRC was formed through an executive order signed by ex-president Joseph Estrada on January 6, 1999 to rehabilitate Pasig River.

Duterte, in a separate speech at the palace during the oath taking of members of the League of Vice-Governors of the Philippines on Tuesday, said one of the reasons Goitia was sacked was because: “he’s telling people that he will be appointed Customs collector.”

“He was already was collecting [bribes from a post that he has yet to be appointed to] and also in matters connected with their work in the Pasig River,” said Duterte.

It is an open secret that the post of customs collector is among the most coveted positions in the government as it is ‘a gateway to corruption’.

But other than this, Goitia’s position as executive director of the PRRC, allows him access to a sizeable amount of rehabilitation funds, including those coming from foreign donors.

Late last year, Duterte announced the full blast rehabilitation of the Manila Bay as well as stepped up efforts to revive the main tributary, the Pasig River.

The Pasig River is the main tributary passing from the hinterlands of the Laguna de Bay southeast of Manila, to the Manila Bay.

Goitia, who was appointed by Duterte in 2017, joins the long list of officials who were either fired or forced to resign by the president.

Goitia’s sacking came at a time when the Duterte administration had been trying to give an impression of clean governance.

According to Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie Edillon, corruption impedes investments, growth of businesses, and delivery of public services.

In the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by Transparency International the Philippines improved on its ranking to 99th place in a survey on 180 countries. This is an improvement of 12 places from the country’s 111th position in 2017.

The same poll considered as the three least corrupt countries based on the survey’s ranking were Denmark (1), New Zealand (2) and Finland (3).