FORMER NAYONG Pilipino Foundation (NPF) officials reiterated that its deal with Hong Kong-based gaming firm Landing International Development Ltd. complied with all legal requirements, saying that graft and corruption allegations against its officials are part of a smear campaign to derail the $1.5-billion integrated resort and casino project.
“Despite the fact that all procedural and legal requirements were strictly followed by the NPF board in getting the project off the ground, opponents and critics of the project had shamelessly foisted lies about the project, and falsely and maliciously accused the NPF, its trustees, and its officials of graft and corruption in approving the deal with Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corp. (LRPDC),” former NPF Chair Patricia Yvette Ocampo was quoted as saying in a statement, which was also published as a full-page ad in several newspapers.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte earlier this month fired NPF’s entire board for approving the integrated resort and casino project called NayonLanding, which he called a “grossly disadvantageous deal” due to its “ridiculously long” lease deal of 70 years and low lease rates.
NPF however clarified that the lease contract between the two parties never stated that the lease period would span 70 years. Instead, NPF and LRPDC signed a lease deal for 25 years, renewable for another 25.
Should LRPDC’s application with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority classify the project as a tourism enterprise zone, then the initial lease period can be changed to 50 years.
Ms. Ocampo also noted the approved lease rates for the 9.57-hectare property — pegged at P360 per square meter per month — are much higher than the basic lease rates of other such projects in the area.
In addition to the basic lease rate, NPF would also receive 10% of the net profits from the three theme parks to be developed by LRPDC, estimated to reach P210 per sq.m. per month. This translates to an effective lease rate of P570 per sq.m. every month.
The statement also claimed the operator of Resorts World Manila pays P156.66 per sq.m. for its monthly lease of a 5.4-hectare property which it also owns in Pasay City.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corp. collects around P300 per sq.m. per month from Bloomberry Resorts Corp. for Solaire Resort and Casino.
Ms. Ocampo also clarified that the NayonLanding project does not require approval from the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
“The law-specifically Republic Act No. 6957 as amended by Republic Act No. 7718 (Build Operate Transfer Law, — says a Contract of Lease is not subject to prior approval by NEDA. The lease of the Nayong Pilipino property is, therefore, absolutely legal,” NPF said.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque called the NPF’s statement an act of open defiance at the President’s authority.
“At the end of the day, all public officials, including those who are in government-owned and controlled corporations, serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority, who happens to be the President,” Mr. Roque said in a statement.
“What the NPF trustees and officials did was actually a violation of the President’s order that there will be no more new casinos allowed to operate in this country,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senate Committee on Banks and Financial Institutions Chair Francis Joseph G. Escudero on Wednesday filed a Senate resolution calling for the Blue Ribbon committee to investigate the former NPF officials for the alleged graft and corruption activities.
“Corruption, power play, incompetence and dishonesty especially if government is involved, adversely affect not only this particular project but other high-stakes development projects of the government,” Mr. Escudero said in a statement. — Arra B. Francia with reports from Arjay L. Balinbin and Gillian M. Cortez