The board of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation misused around P1.2 billion in rental fees by diverting them to the government-owned corporation’s maintenance and other operating expenses, which ultimately benefitted themselves, a distant relative of President Rodrigo Duterte claimed Friday.
Maria Fema Duterte, also a board member of the foundation, said some NPF officials accepted a sponsored trip to South Korea from resort developer Landing International months before the agency awarded a $1.5-billion casino-theme park project to the Hong Kong-based firm.
This developed as the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. said the provisional license it issued to the HK firm’s local arm, Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corp., “is precisely conditioned upon the latter’s continuing compliance with all legal requirements and existing limitations of government,” including a valid lease contract for the proposed Nayon Landing integrated resort.
“Being an agency under the Office of the President, Pagcor reaffirms its commitment and readiness to support the policies and pronouncements of the President pertaining to the country’s gaming industry,” the casino regulator said in a statement.
As the regulator, Pagcor said it was “duty-bound to ensure that all gaming-related regulations are adhered to, balancing the responsibility of increasing badly needed revenues for the government and safeguarding the best interests of the Filipino people.”
President Duterte sacked the entire Nayong Pilipino board this week over what he said was a “grossly disadvantageous” 70-year lease deal with Landing. Maria Fema Duterte, whose husband is related to the Chief Executive, is part of the NPF board.
In a television interview, Maria Fema said the P1.2 billion was the advance payment of Resorts World Manila in Pasay City for its lot in the nearby Entertainment City complex, which should have been used for the development of NPF’s planned resort-casino.
“They have been doing a lot of irregularities, malversation of funds, they used it for other purposes, for maintenance or for whatever purpose,” she told ANC.
Citing official records, Maria Fema said NPF officials went to South Korea on September 29, 2017 upon the invitation of Landing.
“They were on a private plane owned by Landing, which invited them to showcase their theme park in Korea,” she said.
The foundation’s officials returned to the country in October and a deal was reached on Nov. 7, but Maria Fema did not identify those who joined the sponsored trip.
Curiously, Maria Fema was the whistle-blower of the lease deal entered into by the NPF with Landing Resorts for the development of the 9.57-hectare Nayon property in Parañaque City.
President Duterte sacked the foundation’s officers on Wednesday, the same day they attended the property’s splashy launch with the Hong Kong firm’s top officials in attendance.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the President was fuming “like a fire-breathing dragon” after reviewing the project.
Earlier, Maria Fema complained against NPF chairperson Patricia Yvette Ocampo and other board members before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the lease agreement. She alleged that the government stood to lose P25.85 billion, or P517 million a year, from the 50-year lease deal with landing.
The exposé prompted the President to fire the NPF board and order the Department of Justice to review the agreement. The Commission on Audit also said the board failed to submit proof that it conducted an independent appraisal of the property.
Other irregularities Maria Fema found at the NPF during her stint, she told ANC, included the lack of plantilla positions, the purchase of extravagant supplies, and the payment of board drivers using the foundation’s funds.