MANILA, JUNE 20, 2007
(STAR) By Katherine Adraneda - Congress was asked yesterday to audit the country’s debts following a government announcement that payment for the decommissioned Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) has been completed.

Published reports quoted Filemon Condino, Bureau of Treasury fiscal planning and assessment division head, saying that the final payment of $15 million was settled in April.

The Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) has called on the newly elected lawmakers to muster the political will to open a Congressional Debt Audit.

“Lawmakers should be able to categorically delineate debts that are not owed by the people and, therefore, should not be paid by the people,” the FDC said.

“Once and for all, (they could) unravel the web of corruption and plunder that is the country’s debt quagmire.”

The FDC said the BNPP, one of the pet projects of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, was originally pegged at $1.109 billion in 1976, when the loan was granted to the National Power Corp. by a number of foreign public and private commercial banks.

By December 1988, the amount went up to $2.67 billion, the FDC added.

The FDC said the completion of payments for the BNPP was callously presented by government as a turning point, portraying it as an end to an appalling chapter of the country’s indebtedness.

“It refused to recognize the real implication of the event, which is the utter failure of the government to obtain justice for so blatant a crime against its people that such an anomalous project has now been fully paid without it providing an iota of benefit to the country, even expending additional resources for its maintenance,” the FDC said.

The BNPP has not produced a single watt of electricity since work began on the project about 32 years ago.

The contract for the project was awarded to Westinghouse Electric Corp.

Construction began in 1976 and the project was completed in 1984. The power plant was designed to produce some 621 megawatts of electricity.

After Marcos was overthrown in 1986, the BNPP – occupying a 370-hectare complex in Morong, Bataan – was declared unsafe and inoperable as it was built near major earthquake fault lines and close to the then dormant Pinatubo Volcano.

Similarly, the FDC decried the Court of Appeals’ approval of the Philippine National Construction Corp.-Radstock compromise deal, and the unfreezing of the $40-million Disini Swiss account.

“The government refuses to acknowledge the inherent injustice of the very act itself of paying for such odious debts even as the country flounders from one crisis to another, as debt payments continue to drain the country’s resources and the people continue to bear the brunt of additional taxes, want of services from the government, unemployment, and persistent poverty,” the FDC said.

These “lamentable developments” not only showcase government’s ineptitude in obtaining social justice for the Filipinos, but even more so highlights the defective debt policies that result in continuing unjust burden borne by the Filipinos, the FDC added.

The FDC said the government could have deferred payment on the BNPP through the Odious Debt Doctrine which, under international law, is a theory that holds that debt incurred by a regime for purposes that do not serve the interest of the state should not be enforceable.

These debts are considered to be “personal debts of the regime that incurred them and not debts of the state,” the FDC added.

The FDC said the concept of the doctrine is analogous to the invalidity of contracts signed under coercion.

“Amidst these glaring failures, the government’s apparent tactic is to sweep the whole unsavory matter under the rug,” the FDC said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved