CEBU

Court rules in favor of Kawit dev’t project

JUDGE Generosa Labra struck down an attempt to nullify a council resolution that authorized Mayor Tomas Osmeña to sign a joint venture agreement (JVA) to develop an integrated resort and casino complex on Kawit Island in the South Road Properties (SRP).

Labra, of the Regional Trial Court Branch 23, denied for being moot the plea of Busay Barangay Councilor Amilo Lopez, who had asked for a temporary restraining order against the deal between the City Government and Universal Hotels and Resorts Inc.(UHRI).

“The act sought to be enjoined...is already a consummated act,” said Judge Labra in her two-page order released yesterday, referring to the signing of the joint venture deal between Mayor Tomas Osmeña and officers of UHRI last Aug. 17.

UHRI President Frederick Go signed the JVA in the presence of John Gokongwei Jr., founder of JG Summit Holdings Inc.

The case stemmed from Lopez’s filing of a civil petition for declaration of nullity with a prayer for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the City Government. Lopez argued the City’s joint venture deal with the UHRI is “grossly disadvantageous.”

In his 10-page petition, Lopez said that the City Council did not authorize Osmeña to enter into the deal because the proceedings when the majority bloc approved the resolution authorizing the mayor to sign the deal was irregular.

Lopez said that UHRI is disqualified from entering into the JVA based on City Ordinance 2154, which requires that a prospective JVA partner must have a completed project of similar land use and with a cost equal to 75 percent of the JVA project. But UHRI was incorporated only last August 2017.

During the hearing, City Legal Office Chief Joseph Bernaldez argued that the petition ought to be dismissed for being legally defective.

Bernaldez said that Lopez’s urgent motion was filed in violation of the three-day notice rule: there was no formal notice to reset yesterday’s hearing.

Bernaldez said that Lopez’s motion for issuance of a temporary restraining order ought to be denied for lack of urgency.

Likewise, Bernaldez said there was no need for a restraining order since the joint venture deal was already signed last Aug. 17.

In her order, Judge Labra agreed with the city lawyers since the acts to be enjoined already happened.

“The element of extreme urgency is not present at bar,” the judge held. Labra also scheduled Lopez’s hearing for his preliminary injunction on Sept. 14.

UHRI, the property development arm of JG Summit Inc., proposed to develop “Isla de la Victoria” that will consist of a commercial and shopping center, a theater for performing arts, a convention center, an integrated resort and gaming facility, three hotels, a theme park, a public art installation, and parking facilities.

JG Summit Inc., founded by Cebuano business tycoon John Gokongwei, wants to lease and develop the eight-hectare Kawit property for 50 years.

After such period, the property’s ownership and the development introduced therein will revert to the city government.

Under the proposed joint venture deal, the City will get a 10-percent share from the lease of commercial and shopping areas, hotels and the integrated resort, and 15 percent from the casino’s operations.

Lawyer Amando Virgil Ligutan, legal counsel of the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) said they are happy with the denial of the TRO that Busay Barangay Councilor Amilo Lopez asked the court to stop the signing of P18 billion Kawit Island development.

“The court is correct, where is the urgency when the petitioner and his lawyers cannot even attend the hearing? They should not trifle with the court proceedings,” he told reporters.

“Nuisance suits have no place in our courts,” Ligutan said.

In a separate interview, opposition Councilors Raymond Garcia and Joel Garganera said there was nothing to restrain already since the signing was already done.

Garcia said they already expected the development.

Earlier, opposition councilors including Garcia and Garganera also asked the court to nullify the resolution that authorized Mayor Osmeña to sign the joint venture agreement with UHRI.

The petitioners want the court to declare void Sanguniang Panlungsod Resolutions No. 14-0183-2018 and 14-0184-2018 dated Aug. 8, 2018 because these are irregular and patently unlawful. (GMD, RVC)


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