Gov’t can rehabilitate Laguna Lake—DoJ chief

The government can proceed with the rehabilitation of Laguna Lake without bidding out the project, acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra said.
In his eight page legal opinion, Agra said since the Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Project was covered by a loan agreement, it was no longer under the Government Procurement Reform Act or Republic Act 9184 which required the government to conduct competitive bidding for all its procurement activities.
The loan agreement is between the government through the Department of Finance (DoF) and the Fortis Bank SA/NV, a Belgian commercial bank that offers a comprehensive package of financial services for private and professional clients.
The loan granted by the Belgian commercial bank is to be guaranteed by the office National du Ducroire Delcrederedienst, the export credit agency of the Belgian government.
Secretary Agra said the loan was considered official development assistance (ODA) under Republic Act 8182 or the Official Development Assistance of 1996.
Agra issued the opinion upon the request of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which wanted to know if the loan contract could be considered an executive agreement or a treaty that would need to be ratified by the Senate and what laws governed the agreement.
Agra said the loan contract between the two countries could be considered an executive agreement based on the decision by the Supreme Court in the Commissioner of Customs v. Easter Sea Trading case where it differentiated an executive agreement from a treaty.
The high court, in this decision, said that international agreements involving political issues or changes of national policy and those involving international arrangements of a permanent character usually took the form of treaties.
On the other hand, quoting the Supreme Court decision, Agra said, executive agreements involved arrangements of a more or less temporary nature such as commercial and consular relations.
The P18.7-billion loan agreement was signed by the government through the DOF and Fortis Bank on April 30, 2010.
Meanwhile, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) urged Alistair Mac Donald of the European Union Commission to immediately ask the Belgian government and its embassy in Manila to indefinitely suspend or terminate the contract.
Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap said they were doubtful of the project, saying it could be in the guise of a rehabilitation project but in truth a move to privatize Laguna Lake.
He added that the government did not seek the opinion of or consult with the people living along the lake.