MANILA, March 17, 2006
 (MALAYA) MALACAÑANG yesterday gave the assurance that it has the money to settle the P3 billion owed by the government to the contractors of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal III.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the government just wants to make sure that what they would be paying is "just" and acceptable to all parties concerned.

He said they are also waiting for the results of the inspection and evaluation conducted by an appraisal team to ensure that they are getting what they are paying for.

Trade Secretary Peter Favila said the money has been in escrow since the court had first ordered the government to pay the contractors. The government, after a Makati RTC court released its decision, had appealed the case before the Supreme Court twice and was twice rejected.

"We’re just waiting for the results of the valuator because there is a need to have a complete technical valuation of the constructional integrity and at the same time to establish really the cost of putting up the terminal which would be the basis for the policy group to determine what just compensation is," Favila said.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said TCGI Engineering, which was contracted by the Manila International Airport Authority to conduct the evaluation is set to release its recommendation on March 20.

He said the soft opening of the NAIA Terminal 3 would also be based on the recommendation of the valuators. He said they hope to have the soft opening in two weeks which would mean the "regional operations" of NAIA 3 that would cater to South East Asia.

Bunye said initial plans for the soft opening includes the regional operations of two airlines, one of which would be flag carrier Philippine Airlines.

"Napakalaking factor ang Philippine Airlines kasi flag carrier. At natutuwa naman tayo na sa mga pakana ng gobyerno, ang PAL naman sa pamunuan ni Ginoong (Lucio) Tan, ay very cooperative naman sa gobyerno. At nakakatuwa naman masabi na tuwi-tuwina ay sabi naman lagi ni Mr. Tan, kung basta iyan sa bayan, okay lamang sa kanila," Ermita said.

Cebu Pacific, during its anniversary celebration last Friday with President Arroyo as guest, said it is willing to join the regional operations of the NAIA Terminal 3. – Jocelyn D. Montemayor

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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