Casino resort investor Landing International Development Ltd stated on Tuesday that its plan to develop a casino resort at Entertainment City, in the Philippine capital Manila, would not be affected by an announced board removal at the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF). The latter – a body controlled by the Philippine government – leased the land for the project to Landing International.
“Landing International, 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,” the Hong Kong-listed firm said in a press release.
It added: “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.”
Earlier on Tuesday, its was reported by local media that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the dismissal of all board members of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation.
The order was reportedly issued on Monday, but only made public on Tuesday by Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
The Nayong Pilipino Foundation is the owner of the 9.5 hectares (23.5 acres) of land in Entertainment City that was leased by Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corp – a wholly-owned unit of Landing International – to develop a casino resort (pictured in an artist’s rendering).
The news about President Duterte’s decision to remove all board members of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation broke as Landing International was holding a ground breaking ceremony for the casino project.
According to presidential spokesperson Mr Roque, President Duterte blamed the board of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation for authorising what he said was a 70-year land lease deal that was “grossly disadvantageous” to the government.
“He said he will have [the land lease] cancelled as being grossly disadvantageous to the government,” stated Mr Roque. “In fact, ironically today [Tuesday] is supposed to be the day they will launch it. Sorry to burst your bubble but the President said that’s grossly disadvantageous to government,” Mr Roque added.
The presidential spokesperson reportedly did not directly specify which lease deal President Duterte was criticising; but some media outlets linked the decision to Landing International’s land grant.
In Tuesday’s release, Landing International said that unless its lease contract with Nayong Pilipino Foundation was “cancelled or nullified on legal grounds by the courts, Landing International has reason to believe that it is a valid leaseholder and can legally proceed with its project.”
The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), the casino regulator in that country, said on July 26 that Landing International had been authorised to develop an integrated resort at Entertainment City. The regulator also confirmed having granted a provisional gaming licence to Landing Philippines.
On May 1, Andrea Domingo, the head of Pagcor, told local media that Landing International was advised to “secure a clearance” from President Duterte for its Entertainment City project. In its July 26 release, the regulator stated that “through a memorandum dated May 24, 2018, Pagcor informed the Office of the President” of the provisions included in a draft version of the lease contract with Landing International, which included a term of lease of 50 years, renewable for another 25 years.
The lease provisions were eventually amended on July 4, with an increase of 140 percent in the monthly rental fee to be paid by Landing International, and a decrease in the initial lease period from 50 years to 25 years.
The head of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation, Patricia Ocampo, said in a statement late on Tuesday that she would abide by President Duterte’s decision to replace the foundation’s board of trustees and management.
Ms Ocampo denied any wrongdoing in the land deal with Landing International.
“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 stated.
Ms Ocampo said that in addition to a monthly rental fee of PHP360 (US$6.8) per square metre, Landing International would pay what was termed as an “advance rental” in the amount of PHP827.05 million. Under the lease agreement, the Nayong Pilipino Foundation would also receive an additionally monthly rental equivalent to 10 percent of net profits from the operations of the scheme’s attractions and theme parks after taxes, exclusive of the value added tax, noted Ms Ocampo.
(Updated August 7, 8:38pm)
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