Pajes’s not to blame

ENVIRONMENT Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje should be spared of attacks for the cancellation of the P18.7-billion Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Project (LLRP) to be undertaken by Baggerwerken Decloedt en Zoon (BDC), a Belgian company.

Our Palace sources insist that as early as Day 1, LLRP had been doomed for being a contract finalized by the previous administration and that Paje should not talk to BDC or any other party concerned with the project.

If that is the marching order, who is Paje, the good soldier, to disobey?

It is his career at stake, and Paje does not deserve to be ousted for following orders. Others are ganging up on Paje, and they have resurrected issues against him, particularly as regards timber licensing agreements (TLAs).

This is an issue against a man who had declared there would be no TLAs that would be issued under his watch.

From what we have seen, President Aquino had been misinformed completely about LLRP, which would have deepened the lake to allow bigger boats to navigate.

Thus, there is truth to the claim of BDC that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) did not reply to its letters and e-mails. It was under orders not to entertain LLRP since a Palace faction had already decided to just pay the commitment fees, like what Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima had wanted.

Purisima, in fact, had written a memorandum to the President on November 10, 2010 to claim that the agreement can be renegotiated and scrapped “without penalties.”

It appears that this wondrous claim is empty since no bank in its right senses would not demand payment for a loan that had been approved but not used.

His memo talks of a meeting with Environment Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) wherein “it was agreed to negotiate for the cancellation of both the supply contract and the loan without penalties.”

No bank ever thinks of trashing penalties attendant to loan agreements and it pains us to think that the Finance chief still thinks he could get away with a breach of contract.

One of Purisima’s underlings is also backing a group that crafted another plan for Laguna de Bay after the LLRP was junked, and her name has been included in the list of characters supported the scheme that is similar to two other projects that the people of Laguna and Rizal rejected in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Palace has already endorsed this project to Paje, and it is not remote that some arm-twisting would be applied for the DENR to approve the project.

In place of BDC, another company would create a dike around the lake, reclaim land and sell it, uproot communities near the shore and transform Laguna de Bay into an eco-tourism site.

It would also dump the silt around the lake, the very same justification advanced by Aquino to reject the contract, and everyone and his mother-in-law would pay through the nose to implement it.

That’s just like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Joel Paredes


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