THE Cebu City Government owns Kawit Island in the South Road Properties (SRP) and is allowed to undertake whatever development in the area, Mayor Tomas Osmeña said yesterday.
In a hearing of an ad hoc committee, Osmeña said that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order (EO) 1505 in 2008, which amended Executive Order 43. Issued in 1904, the latter had declared Kawit Island solely for use as a quarantine zone and maritime hospital by the Chief Quarantine Officer of the health department.
The council committee is examining a proposal by a Gokongwei-led group to put up P18 billion worth of facilities, including a shopping center, three hotels, and a theme park, on that site.
EO 1505 reclassified Kawit Island as alienable and disposable land also formally declared it as part of the SRP and under the direct administration of the City Government, the mayor explained.
Once then President Arroyo signed the order, the Department of Health (DOH) lost its ownership of Kawit, and the City Government became the new owner of the property.
Before the EO took effect, the City Government and DOH 7 had signed a memorandum of agreement in 2007 covering the donation of a 20,000-square-meter lot in the SRP and transferring the administration of Kawit Island to the local government.
Kawit Island was later integrated into the 300-hectare SRP.
Cebu City Attorney Joseph Bernaldez said that the EO superseded the MOA that City Hall and the health department previously entered into.
Arroyo’s EO changed the situation by “declaring the area as alienable and disposable, then transferring its administration from the DOH to the government of the City of Cebu to form part of the Cebu South Reclamation project and granting the City the ownership of the lot,” Bernaldez said.
A question on ownership came up after the City Council’s ad hoc committee scrutinized the technical and legal aspects of the joint venture proposal of Universal Hotels and Resorts Inc. (UHRI) with the City to develop Kawit into an integrated resort facility.
During yesterday’s hearing, Councilor Jocelyn Pesquera asked if the status of the ownership of Kawit Island was considered when the proposed joint venture agreement was drafted.
If approved, City Hall will enter into a joint venture agreement with UHRI on the development of Kawit Island, which 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.
Under the proposed joint venture agreement, 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.