Council to scrutinize P18-B Kawit Island project

THE Cebu City Council created an ad hoc committee that will scrutinize the P18-billion development project for Kawit Island in the South Road Properties (SRP) that is proposed to be undertaken the city government and the development arm of the Gokongwei-led JG Summit Inc.

A five-man committee compose of Councilor Renato Osmeña Jr. as chairman and Councilors Sisinio Andales, Jose Daluz III, Raymond Garcia, and Margarita “Margot” Osmeña as members was formed during the council’s regular session yesterday.

This means that the measure that proposed to grant authority to Mayor Tomas Osmeña to enter into a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with the Universal Hotels and Resorts, Inc. (UHRI), the property development arm of JG Summit Inc., will be put on hold until the ad hoc body is done reviewing the deal.

Councilor Eugenio Gabuya, who authored the measure granting the mayor the authority to sign the venture agreement on behalf of the city government, gave way to the creation of the ad hoc body.

JG Summit Inc., founded by Cebuano business tycoon John Gokongwei, proposed to lease and develop the eight-hectare Kawit property for 50 years, after which the ownership, including the development, will revert to the city government.

Under the proposed deal, UHRI will build hotels, a convention center. casino, a mall, park, theatre, among others, on the property, with 10 percent of the profit earned during the 50-year duration going to the city.

Councilor Joy Augustus Young pointed out that since it will be a huge project, it will require a thorough scrutiny and suggested the holding of an executive session that would allow all councilors to raise their questions on the proposal.

Ms Osmeña, on the other hand, stressed that since the JVA is an important economic development for the city, there is a need to hasten its scrutiny, which could be done in an executive session.

Daluz, however, pointed out that the under the council’s house rules, scrutiny should be done by an ad hoc committee, which was also done before the city government entered into a JVA with Filinvest during the last administration.

“This is (the Kawit Island JVA) (a) better contract than Filinvest. (But we want to know) what kind of joint venture we are entering into,” Daluz said.

After discussing the issue for about an hour, the council agreed to create the ad hoc body, while emphasizing that it does not have a final say on whether or not the city will enter into a JVA with the city government.

“It’s still the plenary (council as a whole) that will decide whether to approve or not the proposal,” Daluz stressed during the deliberation.