COA orders Nayong Pilipino to shelve illegal casino deal with Chinese bilyonaryo
The Commission on Audit (COA) has ordered Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) to shelve a lease agreement with a Hong Kong casino- resort developer pending approval from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
In a report, the COA noted that the Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corp. (LRPDC), owned by casino billionaire Yang Zhihui, has yet to get a license to operate a casino from the PAGCOR.
But Pagcor has stopped processing applications for gaming licenses since President Duterte ordered a moratorium on the opening of new casinos on January 11 this year.
It also reminded NPF to seek NEDA approval for the LRPDC proposal to Build –Operate- Maintain (BO& M) an entertainment complex on NPF’s 9.5 hectare reclaimed property along Manila Bay.
The COA report said the NPF Board of Trustees headed by Patricia Yvette Ocampo, approved the LRPDC proposal “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.”
According to the COA, the NPF passed a board resolution on November 7, 2017, setting the monthly lease rate of P150 per square meter or P14,358,600 per month, exclusive of tax, with an additional lease equivalent to 10 percent of net profits, exclusive of tax derived from park operations of Nayong Pilipino Theme Park, Waterpark, and Movie-based Theme Park.
The board resolution also approved the lease of 95,724 sq.m. for a 50-year period with option to renew lease for another 25 years; and a payment of 2-months guarantee deposit, according to the COA report.
The same board resolution also authorized Ocampo and acting Executive Director Marie Nino Gerald Medina to sign the lease contract, subject to the review and approval of the Office of the Government Counsel.
The findings of the COA followed the filing of complaint against Ocampo and the NPF board of trustees, by Maria Fema Duterte, a niece of President Duterte who also sits in the board of NPF.
Board member Duterte said the lease contract favored the foreign group.
She said the Philippines was expected to lose as much as P26 billion from the lease, citing the prevailing P600 per square meter rate in the nearby Solaire Resort and Casino, and Okada Manila.
Duterte, who claimed to be the NPF executive director, also faces cyberlibel complaint from Ocampo, whom she allegedly called corrupt on social media.
The squabbling NPF board was also asked by COA to “submit to all disbursement vouchers and bank statements, records and their supporting documents relative to the proceeds from the lease” of an adjacent NPF property to Resorts World Bayshore City, Inc. (RWBCI) amounting to P1.200 billion .
“The latest financial statement of NPF dated April 2017 showed that the advanced rental booked in Investments decreased to P1.121 billion,” according to the COA report.
The COA noted that the NPF “converted a portion and used the funds on its operating expenses since the income generated by NPF was not sufficient to support the day to day operations.”
The proceeds from the lease of a 5.43 hectares to Resorts World Bayshore City, Inc. (RWBCI) in 2014 amounting to P1.200 billion was intended for the development of the new Nayong Pilipino Cultural Park.
The one billion pesos represents the advance rental of RWCBI on the lease, and the amount of P232 million as reimbursement for improvements (horizontal structures) on the 15-hectare property also in Paranaque City.
The COA, however, noted that the 2014 lease contract was “awarded and entered into by NPF without the required public bidding contrary to Section 531, Chapter 2 Volume I of the Government Accounting and Auditing Manual on Revenue Generating Contracts.”
“ Therefore, the validity and the reasonableness of the terms of the lease and the rental rates could not be ascertained,” the COA also said.
On October 12, 2017, the Ocampo-led NPF board of trustees issued Board Resolution approving the withdrawal of NPF from the assistance of the PPP Center (PPPC) over the Nayong Pilipino cultural park project “due to the difficulty of obtaining approval from the local government council and other government agencies.”
A month after, on November 17, the NPF board approved a lease agreement with the LRPDC for the remaining 9.5 hectare NPF reclaimed property. Like the lease contract awarded to RWCBI by the previous administration, the LRPDC contract was also awarded without the required public bidding.”
The NPF owns a total of 15 hectares of reclaimed land along Manila Bay in Paranaque City. (FBZ)