Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pay Piatco, SC orders gov’t | Inquirer News

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BAGUIO City—The Supreme Court has ordered the government to pay the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. (Piatco) at least $531.2 million (P24.5 billion) in just compensation plus interest as of this month for the construction of the controversial Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (Naia 3), awarding the facility to the state upon full payment.

In an en banc summer session on Tuesday, the high court affirmed its Sept. 8, 2015 ruling granting Piatco just compensation for building the facility as a constitutional right, saying the government should pay an annual interest of $16.05 million (P753.49 million) until full payment of the principal amount of $267.49 million (P12.55 billion).

The $267.49 million is the remainder of the just compensation which the court pegged at $326.932 million (P15.068 billion) following government’s initial payment of $59.44 million (P2.79 billion) for the facility’s proffered value in September 2006, through which the state secured a writ of possession to operate Naia 3.

Total interest from September 2006 until this month alone has reached $263.7 million (P12.154 billion), nearly matching the principal amount.

“The Republic is hereby ordered to make direct payment of the just compensation due to Piatco,” read the dispositive portion of the ruling was released in a summary on Tuesday.

“No further pleadings will be allowed. Entry of judgment should be made in due course,” said the high court, signaling the end of the long-drawn litigation.

The full resolution by Associate Justice Arturo Brion has yet to be released. All 15 magistrates were present in Tuesday’s en banc deliberations, but five justices—Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Mariano del Castillo, Francis Jardeleza and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa—took no part in the ruling.

With the resolution, the government has to pay double what it owes Piatco this year due to interest.

The interest has accumulated over the years: government has to pay a total of $218.5 million (P10 billion) from September 2006 to June 2013 at 12 percent interest of the principal, plus $45.16 million (P2.08 billion) from July 2013 up to this month at 6 percent interest.

Controversies and issues

Plagued by contract controversies and construction issues, Naia 3 remained shut for six years. It opened partially in 2008 despite pending litigation with the private consortium and its subcontractors.

Naia 3 is now the newest of the three international terminals in Manila, but its problems have not ended. Recently, the facility suffered from a five-hour power outage, disrupting flights. In January, part of the ceiling of a restaurant inside the terminal collapsed, injuring a passenger.

In Tuesday’s resolution, the court also junked the partial reconsideration plea that Piatco’s subcontractors Takenaka and Asahikosan filed to get a share from the just compensation.

The high court’s September ruling awarded the compensation solely to Piatco, saying the award was only granted to the consortium as “the owner of the property at the time of the taking.”

Junked plea

The high tribunal, however, junked the state’s plea that it should only pay Piatco $104.520 million or P4.9 billion—less than a third of the just compensation—contending that the consortium should only get back its investment for the terminal, not earn from it.

The court also ordered the government to compensate the Board of Commissioners $3.5 million to “defray” the costs it had incurred in determining the just compensation the state owes Piatco.

The board was created to assist the Pasay Regional Trial Court, which earlier handled the compensation case, in assessing the terminal’s value as part of the expropriation process.

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