Former President Benigno S. Aquino is under once again after the World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) ruled on January 23 that PNoy’s unilateral cancellation of the 2011 Belgian firm’s P18-billion flood-control venture, the Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Project, was illegal and unfair.
The news was never reported on various news media outlets in the country but veteran journalist Rigorberto Tiglao exposed the recent case filed against the former President and wrote an article about it on The Manila Times.
According to Tiglao, the World Bank ordered the Philippine government topay the Belgian dredging firm Baagerwerken Decloedt En Zoon (BDZ) P800 million, or what it had already put into the country – plus interest costs from 2011 to this month – when Aquino scuttled the project in November 2010, a few months after he took office.
The veteran journalist stated that the Duterte administration can’t justly ask the Filipino taxpayers to shoulder the nearly P1 billion penalty to the Belgian government. It was solely former Pres. Aquino, not the Cabine nor any other government body, that recommended the cancellation of the project.
If Purisima can’t produce documents to prove that Aquino ordered him not to sign the papers, he should be legally liable for gross negligence in office. The cancellation of the Belgian Flood Control Project during the Aquino administration represents he height of PNoy’s alleged arrogance and stupidity according to Tiglao.
Former Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo initiated the project but discontinued by the Aquino administration. The project would have required little cash outlay from the Philippine government, since BNP Paribas Bank would have provided the bulk of the financing at nearly concessional rates, while the Brussels government would have donated to the Philippines P7 billion for the project.
The project was mainly intended to dredge the Laguna de Bay and the Napindan Channel so floodwaters in Metropolitan Manila would have flowed out through the existing waterways faster and easier.
If Aquino had not cancelled the project, it would have reduced flooding in Manila by 2012, the scheduled completion of the project, or four years ago. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made it a priority of her administration after Typhoon Milenyo brought massive flooding in Luzon and Metro Manila.
During the controversial stoppage of the Belgian Flood Control Poject, Laguna Gov. Jorge Ejercito lobbied for the continuation of the project but he was later on harassed by Aquino’s supporters, leading to his ouster as Laguna governor for election overspending, the only governor ever removed from office for such violation.
The veteran columnist Tiglao claimed on his article that “The cancellation of this crucial flood-control project will go down in Philippine history as the country’s most tragic, most shameful episode in which P1 billion in in taxpayers’ money will be paid, hundreds of lives were taken, hundreds of thousands of flooded Filipinos put in misery because of the irresponsible ill-will of a President toward his predecessor.”