PH, Germany ‘optimistic’ about resolution to Naia 3 dispute

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05:21 PM February 7th, 2013

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By: Fat Reyes, February 7th, 2013 05:21 PM

MANILA, Philippines—Foreign ministers of the Philippines and Germany on Thursday expressed their optimism for a “just and expeditious” resolution to the Fraport-Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 3 case, saying that the dispute should not be a hindrance in boosting economic ties between the two countries.

In a press briefing Thursday, German Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters that both countries continued to cooperate in handling the “delicate” issue, but that Germany saw excellent potential to increase business collaboration between the two countries amid the dispute.

“I welcome the recently initiated mediation process as a first step to find a solution and it is our mutual interest to make progress in this matter,” Westerwelle said.

“But this shouldn’t be a hurdle…..this shouldn’t be an obstacle for our economic collaboration as we see a lot of potential between our countries and it is on us now to not miss this window of opportunity,” he added.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, for his part, echoed the sentiments of Westerwelle, noting that both countries were “very optimistic” and expressed “openness” regarding the options that could be explored to resolve the case.

“While we have not come up with a magical formula that would quickly make the issue disappear, I have come to an understanding with Minister Westerwelle that we are looking forward to the positive resolution of the Fraport issue,” Del Rosario said.

“We continue to pursue that but at the same time both of us believe that Fraport is not the sum total of our relations and that we should take advantage of the opportunities that the two countries can take advantage of,” Del Rosario added.

Westerwelle and a 12-man business delegation was in Manila for a two-day visit, the first by Germany’s top diplomat to the Philippines in 12 years. The airport row had stalled relations between the two countries in the past years.

Fraport is the foreign partner in the Philippine International Airport Terminal Company (Piatco), the consortium that won the contract to build and operate Naia Terminal 3 project.

In 2002, however, the Philippine government nullified the contract, saying the private firm violated the anti-dummy law and other local laws.

Fraport filed a compensation case before the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, citing violations of the bilateral investment treaty between the Philippines and Germany.

Piatco filed a damage claim before the Singapore-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).  In 2010, the ICC ruled in favor of the Philippines but Piatco filed an appeal with the Singapore High Court. In November, the Singapore High Court dismissed Piatco’s petition for compensation, upholding the ICC ruling.

Germany has since maintained that a negotiated settlement among all parties would be best to solve the dispute.

Del Rosario, during the press briefing, noted that the case should not prevent German companies to exploit opportunities in the Philippines in areas such as energy, manufacturing, business process outsourcing, tourism and other infrastructure projects, adding that the robust performance of the Philippine economy showed that the business environment was “ripe and attractive.”

Westerwelle, for his part, noted that the Philippines had been a “great interest” for countries, and that it was important for both countries to start working on strengthening cooperation.

“For us, the Philippines clearly is a rising political and economic player in the region so we see that the Philippines is becoming more and more an engine for growth not only for the region but also for the world,” Westerwelle said.

“My visit today is a clear signal that we want to create a new momentum in our relations and to strengthen our cooperation…..we have just agreed to intensify the regular consultations between our senior officials,” he said.

“Germany is the Philippines’ most important trading partner in the European Union in 2012 as trade between our countries has grown by more than tweny percent….we want to further deepen these dyanamic relations by establishing an official German Philippine Chamber of Commerce,” he added.

Both ministers also noted that several initiatives, such as assistance in the training and certification of Filipino seafarers, as well as moves to employ Philippine nurses in Germany, were also discussed during a bilateral meeting.

The DFA had earlier noted that Germany remained the Philippines’ second largest export market in the European Union and the second biggest source of tourists for the Philippines in Europe. It said that trade between the two countries from January to September 2012 amounted to around $2.6 billion.

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