Council backs resort, casino plan in Kawit Island

BY a 7-5 vote, the Cebu City Council endorsed to the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) the application of Universal Hotels and Resorts Inc. (UHRI) to develop and operate an integrated resort and casino in Kawit Island in the South Road Properties (SRP).

Councilor Eugenio Gabuya Jr., who drafted the resolution on the matter, along with Councilors Margarita Osmeña, Sisinio Andales, Joy Augustus Young, Jerry Guardo, Alvin Arcilla and Dave Tumulak voted in favor of the passage of the measure.

Councilors Jose Daluz III, Jocelyn Pesquera, Raymond Garcia, Pastor Alcover Jr., and Eduardo Rama, however, registered their objections.

During their regular session yesterday, Pesquera said that approving Gabuya’s resolution will give an undue advantage to UHRI.

“We did not give any authorization to any corporation to use the Kawit Island and the approval of the resolution will give undue advantage (to them). We may be liable under the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards (for Public Officials and Employees),” she said.

Garcia shared the same sentiments. He said approving the resolution seemingly means that UHRI already won the bidding for the lease of Kawit Island and gives favor to one firm without going through the process.

“Let’s be more cautious with this,” he told the members of the legislative body.

Before endorsing the project, Daluz , for his part, said he believes that the City Government should first look into the restrictions on the use of Kawit Island since the property was only donated by the Department of Health (DOH).

“We have to look into the area if there are no restrictions since it was just given to the City. It (project) should be part of the bigger plans. In SRP, or the reclaimed area, casinos and other gambling facilities are not allowed. I just don’t know with Kawit since it’s not part of the reclaimed area,” he said.

Transfer

In 2007, the City and DOH 7 signed a memorandum of agreement covering the donation of a 20,000-square-meter lot at the SRP to the latter and transferring the administration of Kawit Island to the local government unit.

The 39,854-square-meter Kawit Island was originally reserved for quarantine services and maritime hospital of DOH by virtue of Executive Order 43 dated Oct. 25, 1904, but was later integrated into the 300-hectare SRP.

However, Gabuya said that his resolution only seeks to endorse the project to Pagcor and doesn’t mean an approval of the project already.

“Once they will have the approval of Pagcor, they will still have to come to us (if they decide to pursue the development),” he added.

Mayor Tomas Osmeña earlier announced that a giant firm wants to lease Kawit Island and invest there.

Osmeña said that JG Summit Holdings, once the deal is closed, wants to construct a 1,000-bed hotel in four towers in Kawit Island as well as casino, convention center and restaurants, among others. (RVC)
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