Malaysian politics behind Sabah?
SPYBITS (The Philippine Star) - March 7, 2013 - 12:00am

It looks like the Sabah situation has become political fodder in Malaysia with the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front) of Prime Minister Najib Razak trading accusations of complicity with the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Alliance) party led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. A few days ago, some UMNO-controlled newspapers and a TV network carried stories alleging that Anwar had encouraged the “incursion” in Lahad Datu – an accusation vehemently denied by Anwar who in turn is accusing the government of Malaysia of creating the situation to sow fear and divert attention from the growing discontent among the people.

UMNO, or the United Malays National Organization, is the biggest political coalition in Malaysia with Razak as its president, but in recent months, many political leaders have jumped ship, so to speak, due to accusations of corruption and other issues that hound the state government. Bloggers sympathetic with Anwar Ibrahim retaliated, publishing photos of ranking UMNO officials with representatives of the Sulu Sultanate and disclosing that the latter were even invited guests during the 66th UMNO general assembly held in November last year. An UMNO leader who is also a rabid Anwar critic is actually the “Royal Advisor” to the Sultanate of Sulu.

Several sources allege that the Lahad Datu issue is a deliberate ploy on the part of the Malaysian government to enforce emergency rule and “indefinitely delay” the upcoming general elections in Malaysia this June. Political observers predict that the opposition could win as much as 25 parliament seats in the elections – enough to end the over five-decade rule of UMNO-Barisan Nasional coalition. Some are even describing the situation as a “moro-moro” to divert the Malaysian electorate’s attention from several nagging issues faced by the government, among them “Amalilio’s billions.”

Anwar Ibrahim said the problem involving the royal army of the Sulu sultanate is being intentionally prolonged to skirt the deportation issue of Aman Futures founder Manuel Amalilio, the brains behind the massive pyramid scam that victimized thousands of Filipinos, many of them Muslims in Mindanao. Amalilio is said to be the nephew of UMNO leader and Sabah State Minister Musa Aman, who himself has figured recently in corruption and timber smuggling accusations.

Worse, Aman is also being implicated in a clandestine scheme known as “Project IC” where illegal immigrants are given identity cards to increase the number of pro-UMNO voters, with 500,000 Muslim Filipinos, mostly related to the people of Sulu, being utilized in the plan (also dubbed as “Project M” for former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad who is allegedly one of the architects). In local terms, Project IC was a plot to bring in “flying voters” to Sabah, our sources noted.

Doesn’t these sound all too familiar? Looks more to us like Filipino and Malaysian politicians are one and the same – true Asian brothers, perhaps?

‘Partnership gone wrong’

As they say, some things never last – and this seems to be true with Conrad Calalang and Jose “Peping” Ricafort who found themselves on the opposite sides of the fence as they wrestled for control over Nationwide Development Corporation or Nadecor, owner of the King-King mine site in Compostela Valley. The crack in the partnership started when the group of Peping Ricafort decided to rescind a joint venture agreement with American company St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd. to develop the flagship King-King project.

A move by Ricafort and his allies resulted in the ouster of Calalang as Nadecor chair, but a Court of Appeals decision last year restored Calalang to the board, along with a court injunction nullifying the decision of the Ricafort-led group to rescind the agreement with St. Augustine. The corporate intramurals was also one of the reasons why development of the King-King property – with gold deposits estimated at 10,3 million ounces and copper deposits estimated at 5.4 billion lbs. – has been stalled.

However, the recent Supreme Court decision finally tilted the scales in favor of Calalang – who was represented by a topnotch legal team from the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco Law office (CVCLAW) – better known as The Firm. Conrad though is more of a restaurateur than a corporate warrior, known for running famed restaurants like Seasons, Intermezzo and Barasoain. Sometimes, he is also known as the father of Vanna Calalang-Severino, who herself has developed a reputation as a successful restaurateur. Conrad has several concessions at the Manila Polo Club, like The Last Chukker – a favorite and immensely popular with Polo Club members, polo players and guests due to its casual and simple ambiance with excellent food.

The other Ortigas group makes a deal

Greenhills Properties chair Gerry Lanuza (also of the Ortigas-Lanuza real estate and property group) recently signed a deal with Philippine Realty and Holdings (Philrealty) to develop a 6,400 square meter prime property at the Bonifacio Global City. Located near the future site of the Philippine Stock Exchange, the property will be turned into a prime mixed-use development comprising of retail, residential and office components as well as serviced apartments and a hotel.

According to Lanuza, the new project will become a definitive landmark in Bonifacio Global City, citing its strategic location where the entire block encompasses the 5th, 6th, 24th and 25th streets in the BGC South district. The Global City project will add to the portfolio of Philrealty, with the company set to launch Skybreeze at its condominium project at New Manila in Quezon City.

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