Pay debts or face closure of terminal, Duterte warns PAL

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President Rodrigo Duterte warned business tycoon Lucio Tan to settle his debts with the government in 10 days or risk closure of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 2.

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In a speech during the Philippine Constitution Association at Manila Hotel on Tuesday night, Duterte recalled turning down Tan’s offer to fund his campaign during the presidential elections last year.

“Mga abogado man tayo lahat dito (We’re all lawyers here). You tell your clients, ‘Pay the tax correctly.’‘Yung isa dito ano, sabi niya—I did not accept. I did not accept his money. He is a contributor. Lucio Tan,” Duterte said.

“I said, ‘Thank you, but—’ And other guys there. I said, you are using government buildings, airport, you have a debt for using the runway and you’re not paying.’ I told him ‘You solve the problem yourself. I will give you 10 days. Pay up. ‘Pag hindi mo bayaran, eh ‘di sirahan ko.’ Wala nang airport ( If you don’t pay, I will padlock it. So what? Let’s not have an airport),” he added, referring to NAIA Terminal 2, which Philippine Airlines (PAL) has been using exclusively since 1999.

The President did not elaborate on Tan’s unpaid fees but said “we have to enforce the law.”

“I do not mind. If we sink, we sink. But I said, ‘We have to enforce the law.’ So guys, if you are put into a great discomfort, sorry. I can’t do anything. The law is the law. It is the law,” he added.

In a statement sent to reporters on Wednesday, the Department of Transportation (DoTR) said PAL owes P6.9 billion to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and P322.1 million to the Manila International Airport Authority

“Upon instruction of Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, letters have been sent to PAL as early as August 2016 demanding full payment of all unpaid charges,” the DOTr said.

“As a result, discussions were undertaken with PAL to reconcile invoices and documents, which led to PAL’s payment to CAAP of P370 million,” it added.

The DoTR said PAL “also requested to discuss the possibility of paying its arrears in seven years.”

“All such requests have been denied. Thus, FINAL DEMAND for FULL payment of ALL unpaid charges has been sent to PAL, preparatory to the filing of appropriate legal action in order to protect the interest of government,” it added.

Tan was in Forbes’ list of the world’s richest billionaires this year. He was ranked 501st with a wealth of $3.7 billion. CATHERINE VALENTE

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