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We will pay, Benitez family tell debtors.

The Benitez family, one of the founders of the Philippine Women's University in Manila, has finally placed a figure on its "fair" debt to Tancoled STI Holdings, saying their obligations were closer to P448 million as against the P928 million being sought by STI, and confirmed they were considering taking in new investors.

In a press conference, members of the Benitez clan reiterated their commitment to pay its debt to STI, which sealed in 2011 a cooperation agreement with the Benitez family, including paying off the 95yearold university's P230million loan to Banco de Oro Unibank.

The partnership has since soured partly due to an unexpected tax bill that PWU had to pay and their differences in direction, as STI wanted to redevelop a portion of the Quezon City campus of PWU's basic education arm, Jose Abad Santos Memorial School (JASMS), into residential condominiums and a shopping mall.

The situation culminated in an attempt last December by STI to take over PWU, saying both the university and its sister firm, Unlad Resources Development Corp., were in default. STI has since deferred the takeover and the case is likely to be resolved by the courts.


"We want to pay our debts. But let's come up something reasonable," Conrado Benitez, director at Unlad, told a press conference. Also present were parents of students at JASMS, who opposed the takeover of STI.

Benitez said they owed STI a minimum of P448 million, considering the latter had paid its P230million loan plus about P20 million to improve the university. The remaining P198 million was spent by Tanco's group to partly pay for a piece of property beside JASMS in Quezon City, he said.

He added that Tanco's claim of P928 million included lawyers' fees and a three percent monthly interest since 2011, even though they agreed at the time that all interest fees will be waived.

He added that the group was ready to cover Tanco's cost of money but the interest and lawyers' fees being sought are "completely out of the question."

"We are not saying that we will just pay P448 million, we can sit down and arrive at something amicable. But his amicable [settlement] is doubling [his money]. That's not amicable," Benitez said.

"We do not agree to pay him his usurious interest and lawyers' fees," he added.

To pay STI, Benitez said they could get new loans or sell other existing assets like property.

"The family is quite clear in their unity to put in the necessary funds to pay back Mr. Tanco," PWU president Dr. Jose Francisco Benitez said during the same press conference.

He added that taking in new investors was an option although there were no formal discussions at this point.

"We have been approached by many groups in the last few weeks. Some with more aligned [goals to ours] than others," he said.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jan 10, 2015
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