Amid concerns over “favoritism” and “undue advantage,” the Cebu City Council endorsed the application of Universal Hotels and Resorts, Inc. (UHRI) to develop and operate an “integrated resort and casino facility” in the South Road Properties (SRP).
Councilor Eugenio Gabuya Jr., who authored the resolution, said UHRI needs the council’s endorsement for their casino and resort facility application with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor).
“(It is) a world-class development that will stand as a landmark in the Visayas Region and the country. We submitted an unsolicited proposal for the City’s kind consideration,” read a letter request by UHRI President Frederick Go to the council.
Go is also the president and chief operating officer of Robinsons Land Corp., the real estate arm of the John Gokongwei-led JG Summit Holdings Inc.
Last week, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña announced that JG Summit Holdings Inc. will invest P18 billion to develop the Kawit property in the SRP.
But some councilors under the Barug Team Rama bloc opposed the resolution.
Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia said there could be legal ramifications on the council’s approval of the request.
“We’re being presumptuous. We’re giving authority to them as if UHRI is the winning bidder of the project even if their unsolicited proposal will still have to go through Swiss Challenge. It’s like we’re doing them a favor without even going through the whole process first,” he said.
Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera said the resolution was like giving “undue advantage” to UHRI.
Councilor Jose Daluz III said the city should first review if there are restrictions in the use of the Kawit property.
He said the property is covered by a land swap deal between the Cebu City government and the Department of Health (DOH) which used to own the property.
He said there are some conditions on the use of SRP lots, like the prohibition on casinos and other gambling facilities.
Being an island, the Kawit property was not part of the reclaimed portion of the SRP.
“This endorsement should be part of a bigger memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the P18 billion facility proposed there. It shouldn’t be done in advance,” Daluz said.
Daluz also said that he would have wanted to see first the details of the proposed development in the SRP by UHRI like the rental rates as well and the revenue expected to be received by the city.
Mayor Osmeña previously told reporters that JG Summit Holdings will lease the eight-hectare Kawit property for 50 years.
He said based on initial discussion with them, the city will get 10 to 15 percent share from the sales from the development.
The objections raised by the Barug Team Rama bloc prompted Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella to put the resolution through a vote.
Councilors Gabuya, Dave Tumulak, Alvin Arcilla, Jerry Guardo, Joy Young, Margarita Osmeña and Sisinio Andales of the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) bloc voted in favor of the resolution.
Councilors Garcia, Pesquera, Daluz, Eduardo Rama Jr. and Pastor Alcover Jr. of Barug Team Rama voted against the proposal.
Councilor Mary Ann De Los Santos of BO-PK and Councilors Joel Garganera and Phillip Zafra of Barug Team Rama were absent.