PMBC continues to Battle for its rights!

The following is history as the Panama Canal Commission (PCC) is now gone and the Autoridad de Canal de Panama (ACP [Spanish] or PCA [English]) is the new agency. The debate starts anew with them on the requirement for the area occupied by the PMBC. 

Read the following for the history and continue with the Update for the current issue  

The PMBC has filed a lawsuit (see September 1998 BilgePump for details) against the United States Government, more specifically the Panama Canal Commission (PCC). The suit was filed in the US Court of Claims in Washington, D.C.(sep98)

    The PMBC is informed by the judge that he feels that he may not have jurisdiction in the PMBC's case against the PCC. He did express that we should continue to press the case as a Tort Claim against the PCC/US Government.

    We are currently commencing suit in the Republic of Panama against the Interoceanic Regional Authority and are considering a similar suit against them in the US if they continue to ignore our claim or if the Panama courts refuse to hear the case using the lame excuse that it is not their responsibility, rather that of the US. 

    The Interoceanic Regional Authority (A.R.I.) is denying any responsibility in the eviction of the PMBC. The questions being raised are very complicated and precedent setting so the A.R.I. feel that denial of responsibility is the best course of action (or inaction). The next step in the process will depend in large upon the decisions of the A.R.I., and if the A.R.I. decides to accept its responsibilities under the Panama Canal Treaties. (jun98)

    No one is willing to talk about compensation for the improvements to the current location of the PMBC. The PMBC has been under "construction" continuously for 60 plus years, always improving the facility and its support of the yachting community. A conservative estimate of the value of the improvements is in excess $11 million US. The sad fact is that the PMBC cannot move from its current location, because it lacks the financial ability to do so.

    Over the years the PMBC has chosen to use its extra income to support the Social Security Clinic in Parasio, The Battered Womens Society of Panama, needy school children from the community, and other charitable requests. As a result the PMBC does not have the millions of dollars required to build a new facility in some unimproved area, such as those that are currently being discussed as relocation sites. One of the PMBC's primary attractions is its large working yard. This yard has been filled and stabilized over many years so that the crane can "walk" around the area with vessels of up to 60 or 70 tons weight.

UPDATE .... 10 January 2000

The Panama Canal Commission (via the US Dept. of Justice) withdrew their requirement for the area occupied by the PMBC and their requirement for the cancellation of the PMBC'c license. They issued the letter of withdrawal to the ARI on the 20th of December. 

What does this mean to the PMBC? It is the opinion of our lawyer that this action places the Panama Canal Authority (the PCC's successor) back to square one with the requirement for the PMBC's operating area. If the new PCA wants the area, they will need to start the procedure from the beginning under the laws of Panama; there will be no hiding behind the Panama Canal Treaty.

Additionally the ARI appears to no longer have jurisdiction over the area of the PMBC, as the area is located within the "patrimonial" area of the Panama Canal. The PCA will have to take what ever action that they envision by themselves. 

Time will tell as this issue drags on. 

Historical Information from the era of the Panama Canal Commission
UPDATE.... 5 December 1999

As the year draws to an end and the Panama Canal Commission is to turn over the Panama Canal to the Republic of Panama, the Department of Justice has as the PMBC to withdraw its suit from the US Court of Claims. In exchange for the withdrawal the PCC will withdraw its requirement for the location now occupied by the PMBC and notify Panama of that withdrawal.

This effectively make the issue an issue of the Government of Panama to be address after the turn over of the Panama Canal. This will make the taking (if Panama continues with it) something that will be addressed in the courts of Panama. 

We are confident that we will prevail in those courts, as the courts have generally been finding in favor of the claimants it matters such as this. 

UPDATE .... 3 September 1999

    The PMBC is continuing in its struggle against the unjustness of the ARI and the PCC. We are engaging a lawyer from the USA to work with us on this issue. The battle is far from done at the moment. 

    The ARI has drawn another line in the sand, this time some where in October; we are confident that this deadline will past as have the others due to the strong legal work of Lic. Aristides Collazos our Panamanian legal counsel. He vows to take the ARI all of the way to the Supreme Court on various issues involving the legality of the actions against the PMBC.

    As usual time will tell .......

UPDATE .... 3 August 1999

    The judge for the US Court of Claims is questioning his authority (jurisdiction) in this case. He will reach a final decision in 30 days. The issue is far from dead as the PMBC is pursing this in the courts of Panama and will pursue it the US District Court or US Court of Appeals. We have a right to compensation and will not stop until we are fairly compensated for all of the work and improvements that the members of the PMBC have done over the last 60+ years. 

     We have decided to not respond to the ARI's request to vacate our area until we are legally evicted by a competent authority in Panama. It is questionable that the ARI has any authority in the Panama Canal Operating Area? The PMBC is located primarily in the canal operating area.

    Time and the courts will tell in this matter. The PMBC will continue to operate as it has for the last 60+ years until we prevail in this matter. 

UPDATE .... 1 July 1999

    The question of the jurisdiction of the US Court of Claims to hear the case seems to be the the peg that the Dept. of Justice is hanging their hat on. Their claim is that the court does not have jurisdiction in this case because it is "foreign affairs"; OK DOJ, where do we go for a hearing .... we do have a constitutional right to compensation for our losses caused by an action of the US Government!

    Our chief advisor is in the US at the moment doing some strong legal research on the issues raised by the DOJ lawyers. Additionally we are preparing the filing for a Constitutional challenge of the law that the DOJ is trying to hide behind. Those of us in the PMBC cannot not understand why the PCC and the US Government cannot just accept the terms and INTENTIONS of the Panama Canal Treaties and set down to settle this issue.

    The actions of officers of the US Government as we tried to negotiate with the Republic of Panama, have completely destroyed our ability to work with the Government of Panama to resolve this issue, if it is in fact the responsibility is of the Government of Panama. If the US Government truly believes that the responsibility for compensation to the PMBC is the responsibility of the Rep. of Panama, then why do they not bring pressure to bear on the Republic to settle the claim of the PMBC?

    Is it the policy of the current administration in Washington to abandon the folks that kept the Panama Canal running for the past "few" years? We spent a lifetime in Panama building the canal, operating the canal, and making our homes here in the Panama Canal Zone.

    President Carter gave it away; in that giving articles were added to the Panama Canal Treaties to protect the fraternal and nonprofit organizations that the employees of the US Government (residents of the Panama Canal Zone) built and maintained in the Zone. Now that the time comes for the compensation to be paid, the Panama Canal Commission (now run by Panamanians in body and spirit) and the Government of Panama seem to be in cahoots to defraud the organizations of that compensation. Both sides claiming that it is the responsibility of the other side to pay.

    In the mean time the PMBC, for one, is paying the price. Our organization is being destroyed by the public statements of the ARI and others that we are going out of business; this is as far from the truth as can be! As long as there is one member of the PMBC in this world, we will fight this injustice. It is not only the PMBC that is facing and fighting the injustice, many of the old organizations have the same difficulty.

    Now is the time for all former Zonies and friends of the organizations to write the Department of Justice and their Congress men and women. We need to stop the Panamanian Canal Commission and the Government of Panama from cheating the old organizations of the right to compensation for the improvements that they made in the Canal Zone. We need to demand that the US Government treat fairly and support the claims of the former Panama Canal Zone organizations now that we are down to the wire in time.

WRITE, CALL OR SHOUT at your representatives in government. Ask them to act and make the agencies of the US Government live up to their commitments. Make the countries that we do "business" with live up to their commitments in the treaties that they make with the United States of America and its citizens.

    ACT NOW!

UPDATE .... 3 May 1999

    The PMBC responded to the Department of Justice's motion to dismiss our suit against the US Government and the Panama Canal Commission, an agency of the government. We should know shortly how the issue is decided. We feel strongly that the court will find that our case has merit .... if not we will continue in the appellate court on a constitutional issue.

    The ARI has shown its true position on this issue (see 3 March update), after meeting with the representatives of the ARI, the officers of the PMBC left with the belief that we were being offered an alternative site in exchange for our current site. We were quickly informed by Dr. Barletta that the offer was not at all an offer of exchange of sites, but rather an offer of "participation" for the PMBC in trying to "buy" into one of the existing ARI offerings.

    As always the PMBC maintains the position that we have certain rights under the Panama Canal Treaties, and the civil laws of the United States and the Rep. of Panama .... and we will fight for those rights. We will not roll over and go away!

UPDATE .... 5 April 1999

    Don Jaime Padilla Beliz has taken up the issue of the PMBC with his newspaper the El Siglo. He and the Commodore, Craig Owings, met in March for an in depth meeting discussing the "politics" of the situation that the PMBC finds itself. Don Jaime agrees that the actions against the PMBC are wrong and will hurt not only the PMBC, but the Republic through the loss of the only facility of its kind in Panama and even the world.

    There are many yacht clubs, maintenance facilities, and commercial marinas, but none provide the same unique service to the yachting community and to the local community through charitable efforts.

UPDATE .... 3 March 1999

    The A.R.I. has requested a meeting with the PMBC to open discussions on the future of the PMBC. We of the PMBC are glad that there may be an alternative to legal remedy on this portion of the PMBC issue. We hope that those discussions will include a new location suitable for the continuing operation of the PMBC in the Republic of Panama. There is much international cruising community support and a rallying support within Panama as folks realize that the PMBC provides many benefits to the people of Panama and the cruisers of the world.

    The US court case against the US Government and the Panama Canal Commission continues along the rough path of the legal system. As expected the government has filed for a dismissal of the case siting various issues. None of their arguments were a surprise to the legal team of the PMBC, who are at this moment preparing the reply.

    We of the PMBC Board of Governors and the legal trustees are confident that we will prevail in this issue both in the United States and in Panama.

UPDATE .... 3 February 1999

    The US Government has requested an other extension to answer the suit filed by the PMBC against the Panama Canal Commission for the taking of the Pedro Miguel Boat club. So the members of the PMBC are waiting patiently for a court date.

    The A.R.I. is continuing to deny any responsibility for its actions under the terms of the Panama Canal Treaties. We will see how they respond to our further legal pressures.

UPDATE .... 6 January 1999

    The Panama Canal Commission has extended the time for the Pedro Miguel Boat Club to vacate the club's current site at Port Meigs until the 30th of June, 1999. This is the last delay to the removal of the PMBC from its location for the last 60+ years.

    The PMBC has agreed to not use civil disobedience as a method of remaining on site after the 30 June extension of vacation deadline. The PMBC will continue to pursue the legal case against the PCC for its taking of properties and rights of the PMBC.

    The Interoceanic Regional Authority (A.R.I.) continues to deny any responsibility for compensation or other assistance in relation to the move required by the PCC. The PMBC is continuing to pursue the issue within the Panamanian legal system, but is preparing a suit to be filed in the United States against the Government of Panama for its failure to comply with the terms of the Panama Canal Treaties.

    The PMBC will continue to attempt to open and maintain dialogues with the PCC and the A.R.I.  to accomplish an orderly move of the PMBC to a new location that is suitable to the needs of the PMBC. All parties should remember that a failure to communicate and to be reasonable results in legal battles and NO ONE wins in a fight.

UPDATE .... 4 December 1998

    The date of the requested extension of eviction of the PMBC has yet to be set. It is the hopes of the PMBC that reason will prevail on the part of the PCC and the ARI. At the moment the ARI denied the administrative appeal for an extension citing that the decision is solely the responsibility of the PCC. The PMBC has filed for an ARI Board of Directors review of the administrative decision ... we are waiting for that review.

    The Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyer for the US Government (and the PCC) has ask for an extension of time for a response to the PMBC's suit. The PMBC in the spirit of cooperation will not object to the request. However in the light of the request of the DOJ, the PMBC is considering a request for the posting of a large bond on the part of the PCC.

    The PMBC has no reason to believe that there will be any urgency on the part of the US Government to settle this suit after the turnover of the assets of the Panama Canal Commission in December of 1999 to the Republic of Panama. We are at this moment not even sure of the solvency of the PCC and its ability to pay our claim when we prevail in this suit.


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