The World Bank’s International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) has ordered the Philippine government to pay P800 million to the Belgian dredging firm Baagerwerken Decloedt En Zoon (BDZ). This is in relation to the firm’s project to the Philippines that was cancelled in 2010, as ordered by then-President Benigno Aquino III.
On September 22, 2011, BDZ sued the Philippine government via the ICSID in Washington, DC over the cancellation of the firm’s P18-billion Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Project, and asked for P4 billion in damages. The said project was approved during the time of former President and now Pampanga representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In November 2010, shortly after he was elected president, Noynoy Aquino tagged the said flood-control project as a ‘midnight deal’ made by the Arroyo administration, and ordered it to be cancelled. In a later statement, Aquino said that he canceled the project (which was supposed to completed in July 2012) is not a solution to the worsening flood problem.
“There is an P18.7-billion project and, basically, it will remove silt from one portion of the lake and move it to another portion of the lake. So if the objective is to increase the water holding capacity of the lake, matter occupying space will not, the same matter occupying in effect the same space, will not resolve [the problem].” Noynoy Aquino said at that time.
On the contrary, then-Laguna Gov. Jorge Ejercito, who is a huge supporter of the project, once said if only the Laguna Lake was made deeper, residents of Metro Manila, Rizal and Laguna would had less suffer during the height of two consecutive typhoons in Septmber 2009, Ondoy and Pepeng. He noted that Aquino had no evidence of corruption in that project.
Allegedly, the BDZ did not receive any formal notice from the Aquino administration regarding the decision to cancel the project. As of posting, the Duterte administation and Noynoy Aquino have not yet commented on this ICSID ruling. But for the meantime, here’s a more imporant concern – Who will pay the P800 million? We hope it’s not us, taxpayers.