POSTSCRIPT / September 18, 2001 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Insight into the mind of Osama bin Laden

LESSON FOR TODAY: Poor Pakistan had to agree to be the staging ground for an American invasion of Afghanistan, not to mention its leaders’ being used to convince the Taliban to surrender terrorist-suspect Osama bin Laden.

There are lessons to be learned here for us Filipinos:

No man is an island, nor can a country in this interdependent world afford to be a loner. It has to belong to a gang of sorts, usually submitting to the dictates of the toughest member of the lot.

Blessed are the poor, but their being blessed will not prevent their being exploited by their richer and stronger gangmates.

Might is right, period.

If one were to be raped anyway, recalling the advice of one Raul Manglapus, she might as well lean back and enjoy it.

And if one were to be a prostitute, she might as well charge to the hilt. Pakistan, we heard from CNN, had its $30-billion foreign debt written off (aside from some trinkets left on the dresser) for allowing itself to be used.

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DIRTY RAG: We recall that a sickly Ferdinand Marcos perched precariously on his throne of US-made bayonets muttered as he put down the hotline upon being told to cut clean in 1986, “I’m so very disappointed.”

What else could he say? He was no longer useful to his US handlers.

Reality finally dawned on the tottering dictator. Like a dirty rag, he was simply dropped when he outlived his usefulness. That’s one hard fact of life with official America, as we ourselves had learned in one sad episode of our life in exile in the US.

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PIATCO DEAL: Before congressional committees pick on the controversial contract for the building and operation of the $350-million Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Malacañang might want to take the initiative of correcting or cancelling the deal.

After all, it was Malacañang under Fidel Ramos that signed the original contract with the Philippine Air Terminals Co. Inc. (PIATCO) and then under Erap Estrada that inserted unusual amendments giving the firm juicy concessions.

A Senate inquiry into the case has been proposed by Sen. Edgardo J. Angara and a similar investigation in the House of Representatives by Rep. Sherwin T. Gatchalian of Valenzuela City.

It could be politically risky for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to virtually validate the deal by not acting on the complaints that the concession contract is manifestly disadvantageous to the government.

A hint of complications is that a Cabinet member defending the deal has been dropping the name of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.

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DRAGONS BACKED OFF: Terminal 3 was originally conceived to be the joint project of the “Emerging Dragons” composed of the country’s taipans asked to contribute to a common fund. Problems cropped up along the way and it was decided to get other financiers.

Since the government did not have the money for it, a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) arrangement was forged with PIATCO. The bulk of its funds earmarked for the project will come reportedly from Fraport of Germany.

The original BOT contract was signed in July 1997, amended in November 1998 and supplemented in August1999 and September 2000 by then Transportation Secretary Vicente Rivera. The parties were the government and the PIATCO, which is reportedly 57 percent controlled by foreigners.

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CASE BEFORE OMBUDSMAN: A complaint for graft and unethical conduct in connection with PIATCO’s contract has been filed with the Ombudsman by the MIA-NAIA Association of Service Operators (MASO)

Some officers of PIATCO were identified in papers submitted to the Ombudsman as: Bernd L. Struck, chairman; Vic Cheng Yong, president; Stephan Bauchspiss, vice chairman; Jefferson G. Cheng, treasurer; and Jason G. Cheng, Hans Arthur Vogel, S. Samim Aydin, Hachiman Yokoi, Gil Camacho, Katherine Agnes M.C. Arnaldo, Mario Tongson, Marife Opulencia, Mary Antonette P. Manalo, board members.

Terminal 1 is the original NAIA, while Terminal 2 is the new facility nearby being used by Philippine Airlines. Terminal 3 being built on a portion of Villamor airbase is intended to absorb the air traffic of Terminals 1 and 2.

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ONEROUS PROVISIONS?: A review of the questioned PIATCO contract has shown that:

  • After Terminals 1 and 2 are replaced by Terminal 3, PIATCO would pay the government P750 million a year for 25 years. Since Terminals 1 and 2 earn P2 billion a year, their closure would mean a loss for the government of P1.25 billion for the same period despite the P750-million payment for Terminal 3.
  • The government guarantees and will assume PIATCO’s obligations, including foreign debts, should the company defaults. This is unusual since in a BOT deal, the contractor is supposed to have the money and spare the government the pressure of having to spend for the project.
  • Even after it has given PIATCO the business, the government stands last in line in collecting from PIATCO in case the company runs short of funds to pay its obligations, including loans falling due. The government is liable for all PIATCO obligations.
  • If the contract with PIATCO is terminated and a new contractor is brought in, the government is not entitled to recover or collect liquidated damages.
  • If the government itself takes over the project, it is obligated to pay PIATCO an amount equal to the value of the initial development expenses released by the lenders, including money loaned to PIATCO even if not actually used for the project.
  • Even if the contract is terminated, PIATCO is entitled to continue operating Terminal 3 until the government fully pays liquidated damages due the company. Thus, PIATCO will continue earning from operations while collecting from the government, resulting in what critics say is double compensation.
  • Should the agreement or any provision is declared invalid, the invalidity is deemed a default on the part of government. In such case, PIATCO would be entitled to payment of liquidated damages.

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MORE GRAVY: For its 25-year lease contract over 65 hectares at Villamor airbase, PIATCO is charged a token rental of only one percent of the appraised value of P250 per square meter, with a yearly increase of 10 percent of one percent.

The government is obligated to deliver the site clear of “surface, below surface and subterranean obstruction.” But the responsibility was turned over to PIATCO, with no amounts specified, to be charged against guaranteed concession fees. It is estimated that PIATCO and its affiliates have already deducted about P76 million from future government earnings for claimed removal of obstructions.

The contract allows PIATCO to collect a terminal fee of $20 per passenger. For the first five years, government will get only 5 percent of the amount, gradually going up to 7 percent from the 6th to the 15th years, then to 10 percent for the 16th to the 25th years.

It also leaves to PIATCO the sole discretion of adjusting anytime, without consulting any government agency, the rates of the dues, rentals, charges, fees or assessment collected and levied for the use of the terminal complex.

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JOBS IN JEOPARDY: In the amended agreement, the government agreed not to carry over to Terminal 3 existing contracts of concessionaires at NAIA (Terminal 1). PIATCO and its affiliate, Philippine Airport and Ground Services Inc. (PAGS), will wield total and exclusive control over Terminal 3 operations.

Papers submitted to the Ombudsman identify some PAGS officers as: Raoul Hille, chairman; Manfred Reimer, Henry T. Go, Lilia G. Cheng, Jean G. Cheng, Eberhard Muller and Katherine Agnes M.C. Arnaldo, directors.

The Chengs in the directory of PIATCO, PAGS and other affiliate companies involved in the project have a common address at 9 Roosevelt St., Greenhills West, San Juan.

With the PIATCO monopoly disregarding existing agreements, more than 10,000 workers in Terminals 1 and 2 are expected to lose their jobs.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 18, 2001)

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