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Gatchalian to new Ombudsman: Probe ₱25 billion Nayong Pilipino-Landing scam

PARANAQUE CITY, Philippines – Development projects change the horizon over a portion of the sprawling Entertainment City, the country’s dynamo to attract gaming and amusement spenders in the region, as seen in this aerial image 23 June 2018. Senator Win Gatchalian is calling for a probe on the alleged irregularities surrounding a 50-year land deal in Entertainment City between Nayong Pilipino Foundation and Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corporation. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

Senator Win Gatchalian called on newly minted Ombudsman Samuel Martires to investigate the alleged irregularities surrounding a deal forged between the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) and Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corporation (LRPDC) that could cost the government more than ₱25 billion in lost revenue over the next 50 years.

The deal involves a lease granted by the NPF Board of Trustees to LRPDC over 9.57 hectares of NPF property situated in the Manila Bay Reclamation Area, Parañaque City, for the construction of a $1.5 billion integrated resort and casino development.

According to the COA 2017 year-end audit report on NPF, the trustees passed Board Resolution No. 410-A-110707 on November 7, 2017, setting the monthly rate of the lease at ₱150 per square meter (sq. m.) or ₱14,358,600 per month, exclusive of tax, with an additional lease equivalent to 10 percent of net profits, exclusive of tax derived from park operations of the Nayong Pilipino park. The resolution set the lease period at 50 years, with an option to renew for another 25 years.

NPF Executive Director Maria Fema Duterte, a distant relative of the President, has alleged that the government stands to lose more than ₱25 billion over the initial 50-year period of the lease, citing yearly losses of ₱517 million after comparing the ₱150 per sq. m. rate granted to LRPDC to the prevailing ₱600 per sq. m. rate charged to the operators of nearby Solaire Resort and Casino and Okada Manila.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday fired all board members of NPF for approving the LRPDC deal, which the Palace said was “grossly disadvantageous” to the government.

“Hindi biro ang ₱25 billion na mawawala sa gobyerno kapag natuloy ito,” said Gatchalian.


Corruption allegations against NPF board

The senator noted that allegations of corruption surrounding the LPRDC deal have already been circulating since earlier this year.

He said that Executive Director Duterte has claimed that NPF Chairperson Patricia Yvette Ocampo and several other board members flew to Jeju Island in Korea in September last year, without travel authorities from the Palace, to strike a deal with LRPDC.

The COA report said that the NPF board approved the LRPDC deal “without conducting an independent appraisal and advertisement to the public to solicit offers from other interested parties to ensure that the proposal is the most advantageous to the government.”

“Bakit walang bidding na nangyari? Bakit ipinilit ng NPF board, sa pangununa ni Chairperson Patricia Yvette Ocampo, ang kontrata sa LPRDC kahit na sinabi na ng COA na huwag itong ituloy? Ito ang gusto nating malaman,” the lawmaker said.


Scrapping of NEDA-approved project

Meanwhile, cultural advocate and former NPF board member Ivan Henares said in a Facebook post that the previous board “had fantastic plans for a Nayong Pilipino cultural park that would truly be a showcase of Filipino culture,” but the plan was shelved for the contract with LRPDC.

“It was a NEDA-approved PPP (public-private partnership) project. Unfortunately, the project was junked by the sacked board and replaced with NayonLanding, a Chinese-run casino,” he said.

The COA report confirms that the NEDA had approved the Nayong Pilipino at the Entertainment City PPP Project in November 2016, and that a qualified private partner was expected to be identified by the end of 2017.

However, COA noted that the NPF board withdrew the project from the Public-Private Partnership Program, without NEDA approval, on November 7, 2017 – the same date the board approved the LRPDC deal, and just two months after the alleged meeting between NPF officials and LRPDC in Korea.

“As cultural advocates ourselves, we are upset, and call for the immediate cancellation of the casino deal and the restoration of the PPP project. Nayong Pilipino was, is, and should always be a showcase of Filipino culture!” Henares added.

Gatchalian also encouraged Executive Director Duterte and members of the previous NPF Board to shed more light on the details of the LRPDC deal to validate the “serious corruption allegations” leveled against Ocampo and her board directors.

“It is sickening to think that government officials would use a property meant to exhibit the best of Filipino heritage and culture to defraud the Filipino people of more than ₱25 billion. We need to get to the bottom of what really happened here,” the senator added.