DOJ voids Nayong Pilipino deal with Chinese casino builder
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has concluded that Nayong Pilipino Foundation's lease contract with Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corporation has no legal effect as it was invalid from the very beginning.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque announced the Department of Justice opinion on the contract on Friday, August 31.
"It characterized the contract as being void ab initio. According to the Secretary of Justice, the contract of Landing with Nayong Pilipino is a build-operate-transfer contract disguised as a lease contract," he said during a Palace news briefing.
"Because it is a build-operate-transfer project, it should have complied with the BOT law including public bidding," said Roque.
Void ab initio means the contract was not valid from the beginning.
The Build-Operate-Transfer Law defined BOT arrangements this way:
"A contractual arrangement whereby the project proponent undertakes the construction, including financing, of a given infrastructure facility, and the operation and maintenance thereof. The project proponent operates the facility over a fixed term during which it is allowed to charge facility users appropriate tolls, fees, rentals, and charges not exceeding these proposed in its bid or as negotiated and incorporated in the contract to enable the project proponent to recover its investment, and operating and maintenance expenses in the project. The project proponent transfers the facility to the government agency or local government unit concerned at the end of the fixed term which shall not exceed fifty  years."
The DOJ decision "rebuts" the claim of sacked NFP board of trustees chairperson Patricia Yvette Ocampo that public bidding is not required for the deal.
Ocampo cited the Government Procurement Reform Act in saying that contracts of lease are exempt from procurement requirements.
Duterte fired NFP board members for entering a contract of lease with LRPDC, subsidiary of Hong Kong-based casino builder Landing International, that is supposedly "grossly disadvantageous" to government.
NFP and LRPDC envisioned a Filipino-inspired theme park called NayonLanding would rise from a 9.5-hectare piece of land owned by NFP in Parañaque City.
Roque said Malacañang wants Ombudsman Samuel Martires to probe the NPF officials involved in the "flawed" contract.
"I hope the [Office of the] Ombudsman under the new Ombudsman will initiate motu propio investigation because there is a need to hold accountable those who entered into this contract," he said.
He also urged the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission to consider filing charges against NFP officials.
"I hope the presidential commission on corruption will take the lead and file the necessary complaint with the Ombudsman," said Roque.
The former NFP chairperson has denied Malacañang's accusation of graft and corruption. In a paid advertisement published in newspapers, she said the P360/square meter rental is higher than rates imposed on similar establishments in the area, a supposed range of P156 to P300.
She also said the Government Procurement Reform Act exempts lease agreements from public bidding. – Rappler.com