We are honored and happy to be here in Malacanang Palace today and in the presence of her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to be witness to the ceremonial signing of the financing package for the North Luzon Tollways Project. If everything goes well and we meet all the conditions precedent stipulated in the loan agreement, in say, 3 to 4 months we proceed to draw down on the financial package of 3 million and issue the notice to proceed to our contractor Leighton Contractors Asia Ltd., a leading Australian construction company, who expects to finish the project in two years time.
Our partnership with Egis Projects of France - the largest operator of tollroads in the world, represented here today by its Chief Executive Gilles Laservot and PNCC, represented here by its CEO Luis Sison, embodies the best and the most experienced expert in the design and operation of tollways. We plan to procure the most modern equipment to assure our motorists maximum comfort and safety.
Mrs. President, it is our strongest expectation and hope to present you a world-class expressway before the end of your term, sometime before the end of 2003 or at the very latest in early 2004,before our general elections.
Let me just remind everyone in this room that it has taken all of seven years to get to where we are today. I still remember very well how it all started right here in Malacanang. Late in 1993, my brother Manolo and I were invited here by President Ramos to discuss his portfolio of flagship projects. It was his idea to interest local investors on these big infrastructure projects prior to opening them to foreign investors.
For our group, we eventually settled on what was known as the NLE-Subic Expressway Project, involving the rehabilitation and expansion of the North Luzon Expressway, the extension of C-5 to facilitate entry into the Expressway and a new alignment to Subic and Bataan province.
Even before we broke ground on the Expressway, however, our group had already invested over a billion pesos on the project, which included the construction of the 8 kilometer Tipo-Subic tollroad which had to be completed in time for the APEC Conference in Subic in 1996. By the end of the year 2000, our group had advanced 50% of the equity of the project or well over U.S. million.
If you will pardon the pun, this tollways project has indeed exacted its toll on us. But we must put water under the bridge and simply greet tomorrow with an even stronger resolved to complete the North Luzon Tollway Project, which has already involved three Presidents and two ceremonial ground breaking (one with President Ramos and the second time with President Estrada). We hope, Mrs. President, that you can be present for the third and final and real groundbreaking once we give Leighton our notice to proceed because we have complied with all the conditions precedent stipulated by our lenders.
But first things first. What has given us renewed vigor and stronger resolved is the fact that today confirms that we have a government which works. We have a president who translates her vision of progress into solid action and who obviously wants a concrete playing field not as a mere public relations ploy but as a sincere way of governance. It has taken this government and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo only six months from People Power II to break the ground --- truly --- for what has taken us seven years to secure action from the past dispensations. This is why we are joined here today by our foreign investors and by the representatives of some of the world's biggest financial institutions. This assembly today is an act of faith in the Philippine government and in the Filipino people to forge ahead in the years to come.
Please allow me now to give credit where it is due. We appreciate and value highly the participation of the Asian Development Bank, The International Finance Corporation, the Compagnie Francaise d'Assurance pour le Commerce Exterieur or COFACE of France, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation of Australia and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency.
We are equally appreciative of the assistance from ABB Structured Finance, Credit Agricole Indosuez, the Sumitomo Bank Limited, the Dai-chi Kangyo Bank, the International Bank of Japan Limited, the Westdeutsche Landesbank Geronzentrale, the DG Bank Deutsche Gerossenschaftsbank AG and finally JP Morgan as financial advisor to MNTC.
Next let me cite the steadfastness of Leighton Contractors Asia Limited. Leighton has been waiting patiently on the sidelines so to speak for more than a year while our group attempted to perfect the financial transaction we signed two days ago in Hong Kong. At the same time, may I remind Leighton that they have twenty four (24) months or if feasible, less, to deliver the biggest tollroad in the country.
The support of the Office of the President particularly that of Renato V. Diaz, Presidential Assitant for North Luzon Development has been invaluable. The Department of Finance, the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Toll Regulatory Board, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority have all played key roles in the realization of this project. We have also enjoyed the full cooperation of the Metro Manila Development Authority, the executives and officials of the government of Quezon City, Caloocan, Bulacan and Pampanga.
Finally, we value the participation of our partners: the Philippine National Construction Corporation and Egis Project, S.A. of France. Our friends in media who are here, who attended previous ceremonies and press briefings and conference and who have given this project fair play and commentary must also be recognized. The many men and women in the Manila North Tollways Corporation, the First Philippine Infrastructure Development Corporation, Benpres and First Philippine Holdings Corporation who have burned the midnight oil on this project must also be commended.
May I add my own personal congratulations to all those I have mentioned for a job well done.
Indeed it has been quite a long journey over a bumpy, hazardous road for all of us. But then our personal reward will be the satisfaction of the commuting and motoring public who soon will travel the North Luzon Tollways safely and comfortably in less time and with the assurance that their tollway was built along world-class standards and will be maintained and operated according to a level of excellence they have never experienced before.
Thank you and Good Day.