Korean casino operator Landing International Development Corp has had a lease agreement to develop and operate an integrated resort in Manila’s Entertainment City precinct put on hold due to the lack of a gaming license from PAGCOR.
Local media is reporting that the Philippines’ Commission on Audit (COA) has ordered Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) – a state-owned corporation under the Department of Tourism – to temporarily pause the lease agreement it had signed with Landing until relevant licenses are obtained from both PAGCOR and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
Landing had been planning to build a multi-use IR and theme park tentatively known as Nayong Pilipino Theme Park, Water Park and Movie-based Theme Park on 9.5 hectares of land located in the same entertainment precinct as Bloomberry’s Solaire Resort & Casino, Melco Resorts’ City of Dream Manila and Universal Entertainment’s Okada Manila integrated resorts. The company currently operates Jeju Shunhwa World, which includes the recently relocated Landing Casino, on Korea’s Jeju Island.
The setback relates to a series of complaints filed by Maria Fema T Duterte – an NPF board member and the niece of President Rodrigo Duterte – against her fellow board members in May alleging various criminal and other indiscretions including neglect of duty and grave misconduct.
Central to those complaints was Duterte’s allegation that the NPF had erroneously approved a contract allowing Landing to lease the land in question for an amount well below expectations. The COA agreed, stating in its finding this week that the NPF had approved Landing’s proposal “without conducting an independent appraisal and advertisement to the public to solicit offers from other interested parties to ensure that the proposal is the most advantageous to the government.”
Duterte had previously compared the Php150 per square meter lease agreement – equating to a total of Php14.4 million per month – to similar lease agreements on nearby land that were valued at Php600 per square meter. The low lease price would cost the government Php517 million per year, Duterte said.
In its ruling, the COA said that Landing must obtain approval from the NEDA and a license from PAGCOR before it can lease the land, however that could prove easier said than done given that the gaming regulator announced in January that it was placing a moratorium on the issuance of new gaming licenses.
Landing International Development Limited announced in April the leasing of the Manila land block following a series of 2017 meetings between its Chairman Dr Yang Zhihui and President Duterte. The company described its planned development at the time as an “integrated leisure and entertainment resort” that would cater to visitors of all ages.
“This resort will comprise Asia’s first movie-themed indoor theme park, waterpark as well as many other leisure and entertainment facilities suited for all ages and families,” Dr Yang said.
“When opened, the branded theme park integrated resort will enhance Philippines’ tourism appeal, complement the existing tourists’ attractions and resorts as well as create significant employment opportunities for the locals as well as returning Filipinos who are currently working overseas.”