Crisologo Saavedra accused Osmeña of entering into a “sweetheart deal” with a newly created company to undertake the P18-billion integrated resort and casino project at the South Road Properties.
Tomas on Cris: “Kulang sa pansin”
Jean Marvette A. Demecillo (The Freeman) - June 20, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña yesterday lashed back at self-proclaimed anti-graft crusader Crisologo Saavedra for filing a complaint against him before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas.

Saavedra accused Osmeña of entering into a “sweetheart deal” with a newly created company to undertake the P18-billion integrated resort and casino project at the South Road Properties.

“Kulang sa pansin,” is how the mayor described Saavedra’s action.

“Manny Pangilinan also has no experience building a bridge so why doesn't Saavedra complain?” the mayor added questioning his motive in filing the complaint.

Osmeña said the same setup has been used by the city government to award the project to the contractor of the Cebu-Cordova bridge wherein the main office formed a new corporation to undertake the project.

But opposition Councilor Jose Daluz III supported Saavedra’s grounds in his complaint. Daluz said Saavedra was right in saying that the Universal Hotels Resorts Incorporated has no track record of its own.

“A corporation like UHRI has a separate personality distinct of its director and shareholders. The fact that the stockholders are rich cannot be said of the corporation. The worth of UHRI is less than P100 million and no track record and yet wants the city to believe that they can invest P18 billion. Are we to gamble the future of Cebu City? Definitely no,” Daluz said.

Saavedra asked the anti-graft office to investigate Osmeña and members of the city’s Joint Venture-Selection Committee that issued a Notice of Award to UHRI as original proponent of the integrated resort and casino at SRP.

Saavedra said that UHRI should have been disqualified when it submitted the unsolicited proposal because it does not have a track record that it had constructed a similar project before.

UHRI, which is affiliated with the Gokongwei Group of companies, was incorporated only in 2017 for the integrated resort and casino project at the former Kawit Island that is now part of SRP.

Aside from the alleged abuse of authority, Saavedra claimed that there are officials that violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, City Ordinance No. 2154, and the detailed guidelines and procedures for competitive selection for joint venture with private companies.

The City Ordinance No. 2154 is an ordinance prescribing guidelines and procedures for entering into joint venture agreement with private entities consistent with the National Economic Development Authority guidelines on joint venture agreements.

Osmeña said Robinsons Land Inc., which is the arm of JG Summit for property development, is a publicly listed company whose articles of incorporation do not allow it to engage in gaming operations.

“Although, they can opt to amend their articles, they are also aware of the fact that the public that buys their stock does so because it is a ‘wholesome’ business that does not offend the sensibilities of any investor,” the mayor said.

He said the Gokongwei family already assured to assist UHRI to build the P18 billion integrated resort and casino.

Osmeña said there’s no need to amend the provisions of the City Ordinance.

“On the contrary, creating a new corporation that’s dedicated to gaming is not only the correct strategy, it’s also industry practice,” he added.

He said he will continue his plan to revive the P18-billion project which the City Council has already rejected.

“In due time, yes (revive the project). This is the biggest employment project in the history of the south district,” he added. — FPL (FREEMAN)

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