Casiño questions ownership of casinosBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A militant congressman on Thursday asked the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) to suspend construction of the $2-billion Entertainment City amid questions on the percentage of foreign ownership of a company involved in the Las Vegas-style casino project.
During a budget hearing, Bayan Muna party-list Representative Teodoro Casiño pressed Pagcor officials led by Cristino Naguiat Jr. as to whether the firm had violated the constitutional provision limiting foreign ownership of Philippine companies to 60 percent.
Jay Santiago, Pagcor vice president for legal affairs, said the agency had referred the matter to the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) but had yet to receive an official legal opinion.
“I think Pagcor should at least suspend the project pending this very serious accusation,” Casiño told reporters.
Casiño said “62 percent” of the company in question “appears to be owned by Japanese nationals so this does not meet the constitutional requirement.”
Santiago said the company in the spotlight, Eagle 1 Landholding Inc., was “not a licensee of Pagcor.” But under the plan, its property would be where the Tiger Resort Leisure and Entertainment Inc. of Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada would build an “integrated resort casino project.”
“We have collated all the documents, especially with regard to the ownership of that landowner, and we have referred them to the OGCC for their evaluation so that we can be advised accordingly on what the proper interpretation should be with regard to the ownership issue,” Santiago told the committee on appropriations.
Naguiat said Pagcor had granted only “provisional licenses” to firms allowed to develop the 12.95-hectare project to be called “Entertainment City of Manila.”
“Which means that if they could not fulfill the requirements, if there would be problems, they will not be allowed to open,” he said.
In a PowerPoint presentation, Pagcor president Jorge Sarmiento said it would upgrade its casino facilities and go into more aggressive marketing, amid competition from Resorts World Manila and later, Entertainment City.
Pagcor’s projected income for this year is P42.64 billion and P45.3 billion in 2013.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said Pagcor should not compete with the private sector.
“There are perks and benefits that the private sector can do that you cannot do because you must follow the law,” he told Pagcor officials.