DOTC ready to defend $329-M NBN project in any court

By Riza T. Olchondra
Last updated 06:49am (Mla time) 08/30/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said it was ready to defend the national broadband network (NBN) project in any court.


“We welcome the filing of any charges as we believe that the NBN matter should be resolved in a proper forum, which is the courts, and not through PR (press releases) and other grandstanding venues,” Transportation Secretary Leandro R. Mendoza said in a statement.


Mendoza made the statement following reports that Nueva Viscaya Rep. Carlos Padilla filed charges against DOTC and Chinese officials. Padilla cited a case filed before the Supreme Court questioning the project


As for the case in the high court, Mendoza said, “We are now working with the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) to finalize our comments on the case.”


The $329-million NBN project won by ZTE Corp. of China is one of the target beneficiaries of the $1.8-billion loan agreement between the Philippines and China.


Signed and sealed


The Philippine government and the Chinese Export-Import Bank signed the deal without fanfare on Saturday on the sidelines of the ASEAN Economic Ministers meeting at the Shangri-La Hotel in Makati.


The NBN project is envisioned to establish seamless connectivity of landline, cellular, and Internet services among all national government agencies or offices.


DOTC reckons the government will save P2.51 billion yearly from the NBN project set to be undertaken by ZTE, aside from enjoying a lower three-percent interest on the loan compared with a nine-percent interest on government bonds used to fund communications spending.


On Tuesday, Padilla lodged a complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman against Mendoza, Assistant Secretaries Lorenzo Formoso and Elmer Soneja, four officials of the Chinese state-run company ZTE Corp., and several others.


‘Grossly disadvantageous’


Padilla said in his charge that transportation officials violated the anti-graft law and the Government Procurement Reform Act when they entered into a “grossly disadvantageous” broadband deal between the Philippines and ZTE.


“The NBN matter is now considered sub-judice, which means that the case is now in the hands of the court,” Mendoza said.


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