10 September 2008

Hanafil golf deal ‘most advantageous’ to the gov’t

The awarding of a contract to develop the Subic Bay golf course to Korean-Filipino firm Hanafil Golf & Tour, Inc. is by far the most advantageous proposal for the government, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said.

Reacting to allegations by Northern Samar Rep. Emil Ong that the terms of the lease given to Hanafil were “disadvantageous to the government”, SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza clarified that Hanafil won the open bidding for the golf course project “precisely because it gave the most generous offer.”

“Anyone, including Mr. Ong, can see for himself that Hanafil’s contract provisions are miles away in comparison with the old terms,” Arreza asserted.

He explained that while the former operator UIG International Development Corp. offered a rental of only P300,000 per month, or a total of P3.6 million in one year, Hanafil has offered $350,000, which translates to more than P14 million annually.

Aside from rental fees, Hanafil has also offered the SBMA a 5 percent gross revenue sharing and development commitments worth $48 million to be implemented within six years.

“Given these commitments by Hanafil, the P3.6 million annual income under the old contract that the honorable congressman seems to want to maintain simply doesn’t measure up,” Arreza said.

Arreza said the issue on the operation of the Subic golf course has been a “recurring theme” among some legislators like Ong ever since the SBMA terminated the UIG’s lease development agreement (LDA) last year due to ballooning debts amounting to $150 million.

He said Hanafil won over seven other companies in a bidding held last March that required proponents to deposit in an SBMA bank $3 million in initial development funds, as well as advance $400,000 in rentals to the SBMA treasury.

The bidding process was duly reviewed by an oversight committee composed of members of the SBMA board of directors and other officials of the agency.

As to the UIG, which is lobbying to repossess the golf course, Arreza said the SBMA “can no longer continue having false hopes with a repeat offender,” pointing out further that the SBMA takeover of the golf course last year and in 1997 had been affirmed respectively by the Regional Trial Court in Olongapo City and the Supreme Court.

“It’s precisely because the government was losing money from the continued operation of UIG that the SBMA took over the operations twice,” Arreza said.

“The SBMA has given the former operator enough concessions,” Arreza said.

However, the Taiwanese firm had “utterly failed to honor its development commitments made as early as 1995,” he added. These included the construction of a first-class clubhouse, a five-star hotel and resort, a condominium and VIP villas.

Ong had also asked the House committee on oversight to investigate SBMA’s awarding of the golf course lease to Hanafil, purportedly because the firm is headed by Benjamin John Defensor III, reportedly a nephew of pro-administration senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Ong has also raised the possibility that Defensor “is just fronting for South Korean investors” since he reportedly holds less than one percent of the shares, while his Korean partners own 87 percent of the company.

That issue, Arreza said however, “is just water under the bridge.”

“What matters to us is the capability of the company to deliver — and we believe that Hanafil has that capability,” he added. (SBMA Corporate Communications)