Palace supports DoJ’s move to sue Piatco, Fraport

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — MALACAÑANG supports the justice department’s plan to file criminal charges against the contractors of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal-3 and their foreign partners for violating the Anti-Dummy Law, an official said yesterday

The charges loomed after the National Bureau of Investigation found that executives of Philippine International Air Terminals Co. and its partner, Fraport AG of Germany, allegedly allowed foreign investors to own 61.4 percent of the consortium that built the new terminal.

But Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye allayed fears that the new complaint would further delay the opening of NAIA-3, which was originally scheduled to start commercial operations in late 2002.

Bunye said even Piatco and Fraport officials showed they wanted an early opening when they accepted the P3 billion that a court ordered the government to offer them for expropriating the facility.

“The government has already complied with the court’s compensation order and the government’s objective is to expedite the opening of Naia Terminal-3,” Bunye said.

He said the NBI’s findings were “separate and distinct” from the legal issues between the government and Piatco that had already been settled in court.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita played down the new charges.

“I don’t have a real handle on this case. I will have to look into it,” he said, adding Malacañang was most concerned with completing Terminal-3.

The government nullified its contract with Piatco in 2003 claiming the project was tainted with graft. The Supreme Court later upheld its decision.

But the government suffered a setback two weeks ago when the antigraft court, the Sandiganbayan, dismissed a separate case against Piatco officials over a portion of the contract involving the construction of an underground tunnel to connect Naia-3 with other buildings within the airport complex.

The bureau looked into the complaint of Melanio Elvis Balayan, a private lawyer and executive director of the Concerned Lawyers for Moral and Effective Leadership that executives of Fraport, Piatco, the Philippine Airport and Ground Services, PAGS Terminal Inc., PAGS Terminal Holdings Inc., and People’s Air Cargo and Warehousing Co. Inc. violated the Constitution and laws imposing nationality restrictions, particularly the Anti-Dummy Law (Commonwealth Act 108) and the Foreign Investment Act of 1991 (Republic Act 7042).

Balayan said the Cheng family and the local firms fronted for Fraport in acquiring shares in Piatco.

Fraport directly controlled 30 percent of Piatco but also controlled another 31.4 percent through the local companies, Balayan claimed, saying the law limited foreign ownership in public utilities to 40 percent.