(STAR) World Bank managing director Juan Jose Daboub will visit the Philippines from Sept. 10-13, 2006, to convey the World Bank’s support for the country’s economic and social development agenda. The visit comes in the context of the successful implementation of the Philippines’ fiscal reform program that has significantly reduced the macroeconomic uncertainties the country faced two years ago.

Daboub will have a series of meetings with economic managers and other government authorities, international development partners, as well as leaders of civil society, business groups, and other members of the private sector. The meetings will highlight support for fiscal reforms and the importance of broadening reforms to support better governance that will result in higher growth and investment, rapid poverty reduction, and improved social services, especially to the poor.

The World Bank official will deliver a speech on corruption and competitiveness in a luncheon forum co-organized by the Makati Business Club and the Asian Institute of Management. He will also meet with senior officials of the Asian Development Bank to discuss regional initiatives, one of which is the World Bank’s strategy for good governance and anti-corruption. He will also visit two projects – a water project in Metro Manila that highlights successful private-public sector partnership and the "Justice on Wheels" project. The latter project is funded by the World Bank through the Supreme Courts Judicial Reform Program.

"I look forward to visiting the Philippines – a country that has so much potential and so many opportunities and has a few interesting similarities with my home country, El Salvador. It will be a great privilege to meet with the country’s leaders to seek their views on how the World Bank can continue to support the Philippines in light of its current progress and challenges," Daboub said.

Daboub, a native of El Salvador, assumed his current position as managing director of the World Bank on July 1, 2006. He overseas three of the World Bank’s six regional departments covering Africa, Middle-East and East Asia, as well as two of the World Bank’s four key thematic networks focusing on human development and sustainable development. Before joining the World Bank, he was El Salvador’s minister of finance and chief of staff to the President of El Salvador.

Before his Manila visit Daboub will visit Vietnam where he will attend 13th APEC Finance Ministers’ Meeting in Hanoi. In Vietnam, he will meet with senior government officials, civil society groups, other development partners, and private sector representatives to learn more about how that country is managing its rapid growth and transition process. From Manila, he will proceed to the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Singapore.

CA OKs P3-B payment to Piatco By Aurea Calica The Philippine Star 09/10/2006

The skies seeem to be clearing for the mothballed Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal-3 (NAIA-3).

The Court of Appeals (CA) lifted late Friday its temporary restraining order (TRO) on the government’s payment of P3 billion to Philippine International Air Terminal Co. (Piatco), paving the way for the state’s takeover of the idle airport terminal.

The government has expressed hope NAIA-3 could start full operations early next year.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Solicitor General Antonio Nachura said that with the CA’s decision, the government is ready to hand over the P3 billion to Piatco on Monday, after which it hopes to receive a writ of possession of NAIA-3 from the Pasay City regional trial court.

"Hopefully, when things go all right on Monday, the arrangement for the payment will be made. After all, the check is ready," Ermita said.

"We are hoping to be able to have the systems operational before the end of the year. We need to conduct a test run of all the systems and hopefully early next year, have the full opening. I don’t want to state any (particular) date," Ermita added.

Piatco, he said, should "be able to live up to its commitment" to allocate the money for the German company, Fraport AG and Takenaka, and for other members of the consortium that built NAIA Terminal 3.

In a four-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Renato Dacudao, the Court of Appeals upheld the argument of the Solicitor General that the Supreme Court (SC) had already decided on the case by affirming the right of Piatco to be paid the proffered value of P3 billion prior to the implementation of the writ of possession issued by the Pasay RTC on Dec. 21, 2004. The appellate court’s Eighth Division lifted the TRO late Friday afternoon.

As the SC had also directed the determination of "just compensation" for Piatco, the Court of Appeals said "there is no practical and logical reason to maintain the effects" of the TRO contained in its Aug. 24 resolution.

"We cannot continue restraining what has been mandated in a final and executory decision of the SC," the CA said.

Ermita said it was fortunate the lifting of the TRO came in time for the departure of President Arroyo to Helsinki in Finland to attend the Asia-Europe Summit.

"At least the President has that information when she talks with her counterparts especially from Germany because of Fraport. She has good news to share. Can you imagine? It only happened yesterday," Ermita told reporters after sending off Mrs. Arroyo at the NAIA Centennial Terminal 2.

Ermita said Mrs. Arroyo congratulated them and instructed them to "push for the opening."

Hesaid he had asked Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Alfonso Cusi to hasten the completion of the airport.

"After) the issuance of the writ of possession, MIAA with the help of Takenaka, should be able to complete the remaining work to be done that would lead to the opening so the contract of lease with the airlines and concessionaires can be done by MIAA," he said.

The CA earlier issued a TRO on the government’s payment to Piatco upon the petition of Ilocos Sur Rep. Salacnib Baterina, an intervenor in the case.

The OSG then sought the lifting of the TRO and later on decided to withdraw its motion to go directly to the Supreme Court. Nachura said all the arguments raised by Baterina had been ruled upon by the SC anyway.

Baterina made a last-ditch effort to preserve the TRO by filing his own petition with the Appellate Court opposing the government’s motion to withdraw. The Court of Appeals consequently issue a resolution that turned out to be favorable to the government.

"We are hoping that there will be no more obstacles to the opening of the airport," Nachura said.

Just compensation

Ermita said the government would ensure that just compensation would be given to the builders of the facility as ordered by the SC.

"The contract was invalidated but (we have to) pay so that the government and the MIAA can do all acts that will lead to the opening of the airport," he said.

According to Ermita, the government can expect favorable rulings from international arbitration courts where the case was brought by the builders.

"One good effect after the payment is made is that we will be able to send a writ of possession to the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce Arbitration Tribunal) and ICSID (International International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes). So that will definitely favorably affect the litigation going on in the international arbitration courts," he said.

The Singapore-based ICC earlier ruled in favor of Piatco, saying the government could not take over NAIA-3 without paying the consortium first. But Ermita and Nachura said the decision of a foreign arbitration tribunal should be brought to a local court to take effect.

Fraport, which has 30-percent stake in Piatco is pursuing a different case in ICSID based in Washington. It is demanding $465 million as compensation for the project.

Piatco built NAIA-3 under a build-operate-transfer contract, which the Arroyo administration revoked in 2002 citing some anomalous provisions reportedly inserted into the agreement by deposed President Joseph Estrada in 1998.

The government took over NAIA-3 in December 2004, a move condemned by Piatco, which demanded that it be compensated first for its expenses.

On March 31, MIAA tried to hold a "soft opening" for NAIA-3 but it was called off by airport authorities after a huge portion of the terminal’s ceiling collapsed.

The ensuing legal battle led to the SCs ordering the government to compensate Piatco. In late August, Piatco corporate treasurer Jefferson Cheng and corporate secretary Moises Tolentino tried to withdraw the P3 billion held in escrow at the Land Bank of the Philippines main office but were told by bank officials of the existence of a temporary restraining from the CA.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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