ZTE deal can be cancelled — DoF

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — FINANCE Secretary Margarito Teves yesterday said that the highly controversial National broadband Network deal with ZTE Corp. can still be cancelled because the Philippine government does not have a loan agreement yet with the Chinese telecommunications firm.

“Nothing is complete yet because we don’t have a loan agreement. Since there is no loan agreement, it can still be cancelled. I would know when there would be a loan agreement because I would be a signatory to it,” Teves told senators.

Although there was indeed a supplier’s contract signed by the two countries, the loan agreement is a vital requirement before the project can be started, he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson disagreed with Teves. “The fact is, there’s already an agreement between the two parties.I don’t think they can do that unilaterally. Meron nang agreement, naka-stipulate sa kontrata kung ano dapat ang gagawin. Pinag-uusapan na lang dito ang loan component ng NBN project.”

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano is set to schedule this week the public hearing on the ZTE contract to determine whether the government really needs a broadband project.

“Dapat makita ng taongbayan ang laman ng kontrata. We also want to know if we really need this. Or bakit hindi private sector na lang ang pumasok dito imbes na gubyerno. Lastly, we want to check allegations of anomaly in this deal,” Cayetano said.

Lacson noted that the NBN deal amounting to $329.5 million was signed by Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza representing the Philippine government and the Vice President of ZTE.

“Ang problema rito, nakakamada na ang lahat. Ang totoo, walang budget na nakalaan (para dito) sa 2008 kasi binigyan tayo ng grace period ng Chinese government na five years bago tayo magsisimulang magbayad for 15 years,” he said.

He said the government is obligated to earmark on a long-term basis payment for the NBN agreement.

“So, I really don’t know how the Cabinet could come up with a recommendation to rescind or review the contract without getting the permission of the other party, not only with the Chinese government but in this case ZTE Telecommunications Equipment,” Lacson said.