Monday, 10 September 2007

Local firm asks Supreme Court to open ZTE deal papers

Original report at ABS-CBN News

Filipino firm Amsterdam Holdings, Inc. on Monday asked the Supreme Court to order the Department of Transportation and Communications to open access to and provide copies of the contract and other documents related to the controversial $330-million National Broadband Network (NBN) project.

The company also asked the high tribunal to issue a preliminary injunction against the DOTC and other government agencies involved in the project to stop them from entering into any agreement or engaging in any activity for the implementation of the NBN until the legality of the entire contract is determined.

In a petition for mandamus to be filed by AHI president Nathaniel Sauz and other AHI officials, the company sought full access to the contract and other documents related to the project in line with the 1987 Constitution’s provision on the right to information of every citizen.

“Pursuant to Article VIII, Section 5 (1) of the Constitution, to remedy the continuing injury to petitioner AHI and, more importantly, to uphold the people’s constitutional right to information, petitioners respectfully beseech this Honorable Court to make a determination on whether or not respondents are justified in withholding information regarding the multi-million dollar NBN Project,” AHI said in its petition.

It asked the Supreme Court to “to allow herein petitioners access to all agreements entered into with the Government of China, ZTE Corporation, and/or other entities, government instrumentalities, and/or individuals with regard to the National Broadband Network project.”

AHI complained to the High Tribunal that despite a formal request for a copy of the contract in letters to DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza and Assistant Secretary Lorenzo Formoso last Aug. 2, 2007, the DOTC has not complied nor replied to their request.

The Filipino firm insisted it should have won the contract as it submitted the first complete unsolicited proposal for the project and offered to build the NBN at no cost to the government, unlike ZTE’s which required the Philippine government securing a $330-million loan from the Chinese government.

“Despite having been initially entertained by the DOTC, CICT, as well as by the National Economic Development Authority, AHI was eventually shut out from the NBN project,” AHI complained.

Under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law, the DOTC should have acted on AHI’s unsolicited proposal and subjected it to a “Swiss challenge” instead of being junked in favor of the government-to-government proposal of ZTE.

AHI told the High Tribunal it considers its proposal for the NBN project superior over the ZTE contract and a third offer by an American firm because the government will not spend a single centavo for the broadband network. Aside from this, AHI would give the government a by 25 percent discount for broadband services compared to the rates offered by private telcos.

In comparison, the Philippines would be indebted to China by $330 million under the ZTE contract. An offer by American firm Arescom, Inc. also would be financed by a soft loan from the US government under its official development assistance (ODA) program.

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