Escudero seeks Senate probe on Nayong Pilipino deal

By Jose Cielito Reganit

August 29 2018, 6:44 pm Updated on November 29, 2023, 10:35 pm

MANILA -- Senator Francis Escudero has filed a resolution calling on the Senate to investigate the alleged graft and corruption committed by former trustees and officials of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) when they entered into a lease contract with a casino developer.

Senate Resolution No. 858 is asking the Senate to direct the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to probe the NFP's 50-year lease agreement with Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corporation, whose parent company is the Hong Kong-listed Landing International.

Through the agreement, Landing International is to build a USD1.5-billion integrated resort and theme park, to be called Nayon Landing, on a 9.57-hectare property owned by NPF in the Entertainment City in Parañaque City.

The project is expected to be completed in 2022.

On August 7, President Rodrigo Duterte sacked the entire NPF board on grounds that the project was disadvantageous to the government, as it allegedly stands to lose at least PHP517 million a year in land rentals.

"Corruption, power play, incompetence and dishonesty especially if government is involved, adversely affect, not only this particular project, but other high-stakes development projects of the government," Escudero said.

Escudero, chair of the Senate Committee on Banks and Financial Institutions, said the costs and consequences of corruption are very damaging to the country's much touted 'Build, Build, Build' program.

“It distorts our much-needed infrastructure developments, it delays or even scraps services needed by those who rely on government," Escudero added.

He added that he wants to look into the other business interests of Landing International in the Philippines amid talks that the company is engaged in other business activities in the country using affiliates and local partners.

“Are these in government, too? Do these involve the same supposition and allegations of corruption?" he asked.

Escudero said the inquiry was imbued with public interest that "must exact accountability from public officers and investors in government."

The filing of Escudero’s resolution came after the sacked officials of the NPF released an open letter published in two newspapers, defending the legality of the lease contract.

In the open letter titled “The truth must be told,” the NPF officials said the allegations of corruption against them were “blatant lies.”

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has called the move an “open defiance” to the decision of President Duterte.

Roque said if the NFP officials really believed that they were unfairly accused of the charges hurled against them, “they should focus their energies on any investigation of the charges.” (PNA)