Briones: ‘Ease’ of doing biz

Publio Briones

CEBU City Mayor Edgardo Labella received a proposal, dated Sept. 30, 2019, from a Singapore-based company, Harbour Group, to develop Pond A at the South Road Properties (SRP).

Harbour Group wants to invest between P25 billion and P50 billion to construct a five-star hotel and resort, a VIP medical wellness center, a five-star marina and services yacht club, residential serviced apartments, condominium units, a retirement village, commercial units, a casino and a shopping center, among others at the 61-hectare lot.

By the way, the amount is between US$500 million and US$1 billion. That’s a lot of money.

The City Council already referred the matter to the joint venture selection committee (JVSC), but the latter has not even discussed it. Which I found odd.

The City Government has been boasting about how many jobs the development of the consortium of SM Prime Holdings Inc. and Ayala Land Inc. at its 26-hectare property at the SRP will generate—it estimated 480,000 once completed-and how the project will contribute to the City’s coffers in the next 15 years—P22 billion as payment for permits, taxes and other regulatory fees.

At least, that’s what Jeanette Japzon, Ayala-subsidiary Cebu Holdings Inc. corporate communications manager, told the Council last week.

According to SRP manager Jose Daluz III, a member of the JVSC, they still have to study and learn more about the Harbour Group and its financial status, considering it has no local partner.

He said he read the company’s letter, but he found its proposal “too good to be true.”

Excuse me? A foreign firm wants to sink its money in Cebu City and a city employee is acting nonchalant, almost dismissive, about the whole thing.

Who is Daluz, anyway? He’s not even an elected official. Let’s face it, the guy’s a property custodian.

Yet he has the gall to call a US$1 billion potential investment “too idealistic.” Is there something he’s not telling? After all, you don’t drop a bombshell like that unless you have something up your sleeve or you’re fishing for something.

According to SunStar Cebu reporter Jerra Mae Librea, Daluz advised the Harbour Group to find a “reputable” Filipino partner and hire a local lawyer, somehow who knows the ins and outs of the City’s laws and ordinances.

Did he have someone particular in mind? I’m just wondering.

He said the committee is still waiting for the appraisal of the Pond A property. It has been more than a month. How long does it take for someone to come up with a figure?

You know what? I thought the Labella administration was serious about making the city business-friendly.