PEA-Amari investor appeals SC ruling on reclamation deal
- Aurea Calica () - May 28, 2003 - 12:00am
Citing negative implications on the country’s investment community, an investor in the nullified 750-hectare Manila Bay reclamation project filed an appeal yesterday before the Supreme Court seeking another review of the controversial contract between Public Estates Authority (PEA) and Amari Coastal Bay Development Corp. (Amari).

In a 14-page motion for reconsideration, Prime Orion Philippines Inc. said the Supreme Court should take a second look at its May 7, 2003 and July 9, 2002 ruling, citing "devastating effects" on investors of infrastructure projects in the country.

Last May 6, the high court declared the amended PEA-Amari Joint Venture agreement as null and void, stating the submerged lands sold by the PEA were of public domain and a violation of the 1987 Constitution.

But the petitioner, through its counsel Zaldy Trespese, pointed out "some pressing issues involved" and the repercussions to investors.

Under the rules of procedure, motions submitted after a final ruling are considered a prohibited pleading which would not be acted upon by the high court.

"However, the pressing issues involved and the far reaching repercussion of the resolution constrained the intervenor (Prime Orion) to file its motion for reconsideration," he said.

Trespese said Prime Orion was unduly deprived of its property rights under the amended agreement after the high tribunal declared it null and void.

In its petition, the firm stressed the implications of the ruling are such "that the presumption of regularity accorded to official functions could no longer be relied upon by the public."

Trespese explained Prime Orion, just like any other investors, had invested so much money "in good faith" on the review and approvals by the government only to end up empty handed.

"These investors poured money into the investment under the presumption that the government will fulfill its end of the bargain considering its representations and pronouncements. It is therefore, appalling on the part of the investors to suddenly discover that the amended JVA (joint venture agreement) was declared by the Honorable Court null and void," Trespese said.

The high court ruled that PEA may only lease reclaimed lands to private corporations and barred by the Constitution from selling or transferring ownership.

The court said the government may only sell the lands to Filipino citizens, subject to the ownership limitations under the Constitution.

The PEA-Amari deal, dubbed by then Sen. Ernesto Maceda as the "grandmother of all scams," was first negotiated during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos in 1995.

The contract was then renegotiated and amended during the administration of deposed President Joseph Estrada.

Under the May 28, 1999 amendment, PEA would transfer to Amari the ownership of 77.34 hectares of Freedom Island. The amended agreement also sought to transfer to Amari the ownership of 290.156 hectares of prospective reclaimed lands still submerged in Manila Bay.

AMARI AMARI COASTAL BAY DEVELOPMENT CORP AMARI JOINT VENTURE COURT ERNESTO MACEDA FREEDOM ISLAND MANILA BAY PRIME ORION SUPREME COURT TRESPESE
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