Chiz seeks probe of NPF property lease; ex-chair’s defiance hit
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero has called for a Senate inquiry into allegations of corruption in the controversial 25-year lease of a Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) property in Parañaque City for a $1.5-billion casino and theme park.
President Rdorigo Duterte sacked the entire NPF board on August 7 over the “grossly disadvantageous” deal.
Escudero said he wished to look into the other business interests of Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corp. (LRPDC), a subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Landing International, in the Philippines.
“Are these in government, too? Do these involve the same supposition and allegations of corruption?” the senator asked.
The controversial contract involved the construction of a $1.5-billion integrated resort and theme park, called “NayonLanding,” in Parañaque’s Entertainment City.
P517-M loss a year
Critics said the government could lose at least P517 million a year from the lease arrangement, which in the contract would have run for 50 years, renewable for another 25 years.
“Corruption, power play, incompetence and dishonesty, especially if government is involved, adversely affect not only this particular project but other high-stakes development projects of the government,” Escudero said.
Malacañang on Wednesday expressed alarm over the full-page newspaper advertisements placed by sacked NPF chair Patricia Yvette Ocampo, who denied Mr. Duterte’s corruption allegations over the lease contract with LRPDC.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said that what the NPF trustees and officials did was “actually a violation of the President’s order that there will be no new casinos allowed to operate in the country.”
Flawed lease contract
“Since the President has already spoken, no NPF trustee or official can insist that he or she should continue holding office,” Roque said.
In a radio interview, he said the ad was “an open defiance” of the decision of the President, who had described the lease contract as flawed.
Asked about reports that the construction of the casino-theme park was still ongoing despite the suspension of the project, Roque said “that’s the lookout” of LRPDC, which would be “wasting money.”
Roque also wondered why LRPDC continued to press for the project when its chair, Dr. Yang Zhihui, had been detained by authorities in Cambodia because of his business links to a man being investigated for graft.
“I think there will be more that will be uncovered … (W)hat the President had seen was just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. —WITH A REPORT FROM CHRISTINE O. AVENDAÑO
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