Sunday, 28 November 2010

Palace never informed me why the lake rehab project was junked - Belgian envoy


MANILA, Philippines - Belgian Ambassador Christian Meerschman claimed that Malacanang never told him why the P18.9 billion Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Project (LLRP) to be undertaken by the Baggerwerken Decloedt En Zoon(BDC)was being junked.

The ambassador’s statement contradicted the claim of the Palace that the Belgian Embassy had been informed about the project's cancellation.

Last Saturday, Meerschman said the Belgian government supports the BDC and the project it is undertaking to restore the ecological integrity of 94,900-hectare Laguna de Bay.

He said he remains optimistic the matter can be resolved after his talk with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, during which he impressed the importance of the project and the commitment of the Belgian government to support it.

In the same forum, Dimitry Detilleux, BDC area manager for North Asia, denied allegations that the company had bribed government officials, stressing "we would run out of money if we do, considering that you have to deal with 10 or 11 agencies."

Detilleux said BDC stands by its 150 years of experience in dredging and would never compromise its reputation by paying off officials just to undertake the project, which has 37.4 percent grant component using yen-denominated loans.

He said "BDC has developed the technology and expertise to handle the project and it stands by its technical knowhow in pursuing the project."

Gil Navarro, co-convenor and spokesman of the Kilusang Lawa Kalikasan (KLK), said his group supports the project to save Laguna de Bay from dying, stressing that "it is the first time such a project is being undertaken."

He batted for the project since it would increase the lake’s water holding capacity and water quality, perking up open fisheries and improving the catch in fish cages.

Former Senator Francisco "Kit" Tatad said the cancellation of the project was "unacceptable" since it was valid and this had been affirmed thrice by the Department of Justice (DoJ), "which speaks on behalf of government."

He added the matter should be discussed by the Belgian government with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA.)

BDC lawyers said the contract was valid and wondered why the government had sat on it since President Aquino took over the government in July.

Former UP College of Law Dean Froilan Bacungan also affirmed the validity of the contract, which is the law between the parties, and said it was clearly covered by the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) Law and partakes of an executive agreement that must be respected.

Until last Saturday, BDC had not received the notice of cancellation announced last week by presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

Detilleux said his company is still open to talks and possible conciliation and would only resort to international arbitration when all other measures fail.

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