‘Missing’ documents stall Mactan reclamation project

THE Lapu-Lapu City Council has given the proponent of the 400-hectare Mactan North Reclamation and Development Project (MNRDP) until Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, to submit the required documents to push through with the construction, or lose the contract to undertake the project.

City Councilor and lawyer Eugene Espedido said Dr. Noli Arnulfo Igano, the president and chief executive officer of Salug Valley Enterprises and Development Corp. (SVEDC) Group, was given five calendar days to submit the documents when he attended the City Council session last Wednesday, Jan. 18.

Among the documents the council asked for are the environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the financial documents of the SVEDC Group. The proponent also has to return the P500-million guarantee fund to the escrow account that was set up for the project.

“If they cannot submit the documents in five days, murag malagmit i-open na nato og laing interesado. Mo-welcome ta og bag-ong interesado nga developers (we will most likely proceed with another bidding and offer it to other developers who may be interested),” said Espedido, who chairs the council’s committee on business and industry.

The City Council invited Igano to attend the session to shed light on the MNRDP. During the session, Igano expressed his intentions to push through with the project, whose cost was pegged at P10 billion in 2008.

“We told him that since you are still interested to undertake the project, we want to know the status of the documents as well as the conditions that were set when the project was awarded to their company,” Espedido told SunStar Cebu.

Igano assured the council that the documents are complete, which, he said, they submitted to former city councilor Michael Dignos, who was in charge of the project in the previous administration.

But Espedido claimed that Dignos did not turn over any document relating to the MNRDP when Mayor Junard Chan assumed office in 2019.

He said the Department of the Interior and Local Government could attest to this since its officers were present during the turnover.

“Well, if indeed he submitted the documents, he must have copies that were marked ‘received.’ But he could not provide us with those copies so he will have problems with that,” said Espedido.

Dignos, for his part, said he turned over all the documents to the Office of the Mayor.

”As far as I can remember, the City’s joint venture partner complied with the documents submission. I turned over all documents to the office of the city mayor when I was asked to and they were received by Attorney (James Allan) Sayson,” said Dignos. Sayson is the current Lapu-Lapu City legal officer.

“All documents in our office, I had wanted it itemized but Attorney Sayson was in a hurry and did not wait for (the) itemized turnover. But I turned over 16 big boxes to him and in my letter, I indicated that he received all the documents necessary for the implementation of the MNRDP,” Dignos added.

In a separate interview, Sayson said he did not receive documents related to the project.

During the session, Espedido also asked Igano about the conditions or requirements for the project, including the need to put up a P500-million bond in an escrow account.

“That amount will be in the bank so that whatever happens to the project, the escrow amount can be withdrawn by the City Government... But he himself admitted during the session that he already withdrew the funds. In other words, the City has no hold on the developer,” he added.

Espedido said they had been reviewing the reclamation project because 20 years have passed since the MNRDP was approved but there has been no progress since 2003.

On Dec. 15, 2022, Chan told SunStar Cebu that they may open the project for bidding if it turns out that SVEDC is not qualified. SVEDC got the contract to undertake the project through a Swiss Challenge.

Chan wants to pursue the MNRDP immediately to decongest the City’s commercial and industrial areas and to open alternative roads to address traffic woes.

Chan asked Undersecretary Terence Calatrava, the newly appointed Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, to help fast-track the implementation of projects in the city, including the MNRDP.

The reclamation project was approved on April 27, 2003 during the term of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

On April 28, 2008, the Philippine Reclamation Authority and the City Government entered into a memorandum of agreement for the implementation of the MNRDP.

The Lapu-Lapu City Government and SVEDC Group have reportedly agreed to rebrand the MNRDP as the Mactan Cebu Ocean City, where businesses can operate. It is envisioned to make Lapu-Lapu City the gateway for foreign investments in the Visayas.

SVEDC Group includes Jan de Nul, Royal Haskoning, Philippine Business Bank, FBO Management Network Inc. and other private institutions. (MKG)