Ocean Adventure operator challenges foreclosure
ZAMBALES, Philippines – The parent company of Ocean Adventure has challenged the move of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) to shut down the theme park and its related facilities in the freeport.
In a complaint filed against the state corporation, the Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium Incorporated asked a Bataan court to nullify what it called SBMA's "illegal termination" of its lease agreement.
"Clearly, the SBMA has no basis to declare that SBMEI is in default under the lease agreement, and terminate the lease agreement and repossess the lease premises," SBMEI said in its complaint filed before the Regional Trial Court in Balanga, Bataan, on October 18.
The company also asked the court to issue an ex parte temporary restraining order and/or a writ of preliminary injunction to stop the foreclosure and repossession of the SBMEI facilities in Subic Freeport.
SBMA is expected to enter the leased premises and reposeess the undeveloped areas under the lease agreement on October 27, or 30 days after SBMEI received the Notice of Termination and Repossession.
In September, SBMA announced that it would preterminate its contract with SBMEI and repossess Ocean Adventure and its related facilities in over supposed multiple contract violations and its failure to fulfill development commitments.
In its complaint, SBMEI claimed that the "perceived violations are slight or causal."
SBMEI, which also operates Camayan Beach resort and Adventure Beach Waterpark, had earlier said it was blindsided by the decision since it was supposedly negoatiating with SBMA "in good faith."
SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma Eisma previously said that the decision was reached after "months of negotiation" with SBMEI did not lead to "concrete action from their side." She had also said that SBMA was open to renegotiation.
SBMA earlier said that it would give SBMEI two years to shut down and vacate the developed portion of its leased area, where Ccean adventure is located, along with Camayan Resort Hotel and Adventure Beach Waterpark.
In a phone interview with Rappler, SBMEI president and CEO Robert Gonzaga explained why the company was prompted to take legal action.
"We have been forced to take SBMA to court since they are clearly unwilling to deal with us in good faith. Their idea of negotiation is to preterminate our lease in the misguided assumption that it will force us to cave to their unreasonable demands," he said.
"Unfortunately for locators in Subic, holding the investment of locators hostage seems to be the favored approach of this SBMA administration," Gonzaga added.
Gonzaga reiterated that the SBMA might have taken the "extreme" action because SBMEI had criticized it for not faithfully implementing Republic Act No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business Act.
"They have made a policy of demanding locators to 'volunteer' to renegotiate existing contracts, revise or rewrite them, or threaten to preterminate if they don’t give in to SBMA’s demands. They went to the extreme with us probably because we publicly asked them to comply with the spirit and intent of the ease of doing business law," he said.
P5-M legal fees
SBMEI said in its compaint that under its contract with SBMA, the penalty for the supposed violations would have only resulted in payment of penalty fees, the forfeiture of the performance bond in favor of SBMA, and the payment of increased reservation fee for future sites that SBMEI had yet to develop.
SBMEI also said in the complaint that SBMA has not approved its master plan submitted in 2009 and that "at most, the SBMA approved the master plan submitted by SBMEI only and specifically as a conceptual master plan."
"Moreover, the SBMA, despite constant following up by SBMEI, has failed and refused to act on the final amendment to the lease, which the SBMA itself declared are necessary for the approval of the development commitments," the company said.
The company also alleged that "SBMA has been receiving and entertaining proposals from prospective investors seeking to take over the area covered by the lease agreement with SBMEI."
The company is demanding P5 million from SBMA for payment of its legal fees. – Rappler.com