The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, cancelled the land lease provided to Landing International for a casino in Manila earlier this month. However, Landing apparently didn’t get the memo. It has stated that the casino is still going to progress and held a groundbreaking ceremony on August 7. After the Philippine Star media outlet published an op-ed piece yesterday regarding construction work at the site, Landing felt it was time to clear the air.
In an email sent to GGRAsia, a representative for the company said, “Other than [putting up] site hoardings and clearing the land, we have not commenced any construction works since our ground breaking on August 7.” This is in contradiction to the op-ed article, which said that construction was at “full steam.” The representative added, “The construction equipment that the news article referred to including the bulldozers, cement mixers, [and] batching [cement-making] plant belong to another adjacent site, which is unrelated to us.”
GGRAsia asked the company for clarification on its schedule for the casino construction. It was given a “no comment at this stage” response, but subsequently added that it plans on keeping the 2022 launch date it has previously publicized.
This has been a contentious ordeal for Landing, as well as for President Duterte. There has been a lot of back-and-forth, with Landing saying that it has not been denied its construction or casino permits, and the government arguing to the contrary.
When President Duterte cancelled the permits, he also fired all members of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) board. The NPF is a government-controlled entity that had leased the land to Landing Resorts Philippines Development Corp., a Landing International subsidiary.
Later, it was announced that the country’s Department of Justice ordered a review of the land lease contract by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel. Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said at the time, “The removal of all the board members of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation board, by itself… does not affect the implementation of the project.”
That statement, by Landing’s estimations, gave the company the green light to continue with the project. In a filing with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, Landing said, “To the best knowledge of the company, the lease is legal, valid and enforceable.”
The resort project carries a price tag of $1.5 billion. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (PAGCOR) has already given the company a gaming license for the casino, but that license is only valid on the basis of a legitimate land lease agreement. “[PAGCOR] reiterates that the provisional licence it issued to [Landing Philippines] is precisely conditioned upon the latter’s continuing compliance with all the legal requirements and existing limitations of government, including the presence of a valid lease contract,” it said.
Like a bad weekday soap opera, the drama continues. The plot changes on almost a daily basis and at this point there’s no clear indication which way the chips will fall.