Filtered By: Money

Landing Int’l to pursue $1.5-B casino-resort even after landlord NPF earns Duterte’s ire

Hong Kong-based Landing International Development Ltd. clarified on Tuesday that its integrated casino-resort in Parañaque City will push through as planned even after President Duterte earned the ire of landlord Nayong Filipino Foundation, a government-owned and controlled corporation.

Earlier on Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte fired the NPF board of trustees for approving a supposedly disadvantageous lease deal with Landing International.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the President wants the contract canceled.

Roque said the lease contract that Landing signed with a state-owned foundation in March has significantly put the government at a disadvantage because the rental payment was "unconscionable".

"Sorry to burst your bubble, people, but the president said that is grossly disadvantageous to the government," Roque told a media briefing, a few minutes after Landing broke ground for the fifth casino project at the 100-hectare Entertainment City strip located south of the capital Manila.

This is the second casino project under fire from Duterte's government. In April, it shelved a plan by Macau's Galaxy Entertainment Group to build a $500 million integrated casino-resort on the holiday island of Boracay, just a month after the gaming regulator approved the project. The government cited environmental concerns for the move.

The casino-resort, called NayonLanding, sits on land owned by NPF.

The Hong Kong-based developer said its project is still pushing through.

“Landing International Development Ltd., together with its subsidiaries, wishes to convey that its integrated resort project at the Entertainment City in Parañaque City, Philippines, entitled NayonLanding, is still pushing through and its lease contract with Nayong Pilipino Foundation is still valid and effective,” it said in a statement.

“From the group’s view point, the recent decision of the Philippine government to replace members of the NPF board of trustees did not affect the validity of the subject contract of lease.”

‘It is regrettable’

In a separate statement, NPF chairperson Patricia Ocampo said she will abide by President Duterte’s decision to replace the foundation’s board of trustees and management.
“In behalf of the board of trustees of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation, I would like to thank the President for having been given the opportunity to serve the Filipino people. It is regrettable that it has come to this, but we understand that we serve at the pleasure of the President,” Ocampo said.

“We will continue to serve the President in our personal capacities as we firmly believe in the President's fight to rid the country of graft and corruption,” she said.

The lease terms between NPF and Landing International is for 25 years starting from the date of execution of the contract, not 70 years as alleged by critics. Ocampo noted.
The monthly rentals were pegged at P360 per square meter, with an advanced payment of P827.05 million, according to the NPF official.

Landing International emphasized that the 25-year lease term under the contract between its wholly-owned subsidiary Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corp. and NPF will commence only on the date of execution of the lease contract.

‘A valid leaseholder’

However, it emphasized that the company has a separate application pending with Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority.

“Subject to and upon approval of Landing Philippines’ application with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), the term of the lease shall be for a period of 50 years as provided for and specifically allowed by Republic Act No. 9593, otherwise known as the Tourism Act of 2009, as an incentive to encourage foreign investments in the Philippines,” Landing International said.

“Unless the lease contract is canceled or nullified on legal grounds by the courts, Landing has reason to believe that it is a valid leaseholder and can legally proceed with its project,” the company said.

Ocampo denied allegations that the NPF board and management were involved in graft over the lease contract covering NayonLanding.
“I strongly deny accusations that there was graft and corruption. On the contrary, the lease contract with Landing International Development Ltd. is above-board, and is highly advantageous to the government and to the Filipino people,” she said.

On top of the monthly rent, NPF will receive additional payments equivalent to 10 percent of net profit from the operations of NayonLanding.
“We negotiated what we believed then, and believe now, are most advantageous terms and conditions for the government and the people,” Ocampo said. —with Reuters/VDS/BAP, GMA News