'PIATCO must not impede NAIA 3 opening'

Posted at 06/30/08 11:42 AM

The head of a presidential task force overseeing the mothballed Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 is hoping that the Philippine International Air Terminals Corporation (PIATCO) will no longer block the opening of the controversial terminal.

“I hope that the litigants, particularly PIATCO,  having said what I’ve been saying on policy level that a compromise can be had in this situation, will not anymore stop or do something to impede the opening of the airport,” Michael Defensor said in an interview on ANC’s “News at 8.”

Defensor said it is just a matter of settling how much money the government will have to pay PIATCO in order to control the  facility.  He said both PIATCO and the government can get a reputable, competent and mutually acceptable third party to determine, for one, the cost of construction.  

“Secondly, they would say, ‘There’s interest cost, there’s potential earnings that are lost in giving up the airport.’ So, that can be computed. For me, a compromise can definitely be had in this situation,” he said.  

The opening of Terminal 3, built on a 63.5-hectare lot, has been delayed several times due to, among others, legal impediments caused by the filing of charges of PIATCO and its German investor, Fraport AG, against the Philippine government.

PIATCO won the build-operate-transfer contract to construct the terminal but in 2004, the Supreme Court nullified the deal because of the onerous provisions in the deal.

The government consequently took over the airport terminal and began exproriation proceedings following the high court's ruling. This prompted PIATCO to file cases before international courts, including arbitration courts in Washington and Singapore.

In 2005, the Supreme Court issued a ruling ordering the government to pay PIATCO at least P3 billion in compensation, an amount still being contested by the company, before it could fully take over the terminal.  

Defensor maintained that the government can already make the necessary preparations to operate the airport terminal despite challenges on the compensation.

“The valuation might take sometime. I’m sure there’s a base figure we can agree on and some areas, where we have to seek clarification, we can agree on. While we’re doing this, we just continue operating, make necessary operations and continue for international use,” he said.

In a related interview, Defensor told abs-cbnNEWS.com that it is “all systems go” for the terminal’s operations, saying that the officials concerned have already addressed the problems encountered at the NAIA 3, including the air-conditioning system.     

Defensor said the operations of the new terminal are slated to begin third week of July, initially for domestic flights. Terminal 3, with a capacity of 13 million passengers, is expected to be ready for international flights six or nine months from its opening.

In 2006, Manila International Airport Authority was about to hold a soft opening of new terminal when a portion of its ceiling collapsed, delaying anew its operations.

Defensor, however, assured that the terminal have been subjected to thorough inspection.

He noted that the Japanese firm Takenaka Corp., the lead contractor hired by PIATCO to build the terminal in 1998, has maintained the facility although he admitted that some equipment have to be “rehabilitated.”  But he said the terminal would only have to undergo “minor repairs.” Trina Lagura, abs-cbnNEWS.com