Developer warns gov’t: Waterfront undervalued

The approvals were made by the PRA Governing Board and not just one official.

Property developer Asian Seas Resources and Construction Development Corp. said the government needs to scrutinize the proposed reclamation project of the Waterfront Manila Premier Development Inc., which is likely “undervalued” given the current market conditions.

In an interview this week, ASSERCO lawyer Atty. Jose A. Bernas said WMPDI’s P34-billion horizontal development within 318-hectare land along Manila Bay could be “undervalued by at least three times.”

WMPDI recently said it already paid the Philippine Reclamation Authority the required regulatory fees and social environment fund of P800 million, which was part of the condition to mobilize the project.

“The approvals were made by the PRA Governing Board and not just one official,” WMPDI added.

However, Bernas argued that the project cost is undervalued and illegal.

“The cost should be at least three times more. At current prices, a reclamation project these days should cost about P30,000 per square meter. The fee doesn’t cure it,” Bernas said. Thus, the WMPDI’s massive project should amount to close to P100 billion or about P95.4 billion.

No NEDA clearance

“Aside from that, the project is illegal and it has no clearance from the National Economic Development Authority. The same area was already awarded to ASSERCO. Illegality is a bigger social and regulatory cost, it puts the government in a bad light — that is never a good nor cost-free thing,” he said.

Last 18 August, PRA’s Reclamation and Regulation Office general manager, lawyer Joseph John Literal, told WMPDI president Kenneth Gatchalian that the board approved the 60 days extension for the company to settle the second tranche payment of its initial regulatory fee and social environment fund.

The extension will last until 18 October.

In response, Bernas sent a letter dated 22 August to Literal’s office to question the authority and finality of Literal’s decision.

He said as an Assistant General Manager, Literal does not have the authority to issue the WMPDI approval.

The PRA approved WMPDI’s request after the Makati Regional Trial Court issued a decision revoking the 25 April order, given the absence of injunctive relief granted in ASSERCO’s favor.

In its 25 April ruling, the Makati court declared null and void the WMPDI’s contract to reclaim 318 hectares in Manila Bay for allegedly failing to undergo a competitive bidding process and evaluation by the NEDA.

Likewise, it will encroach on areas covered by another reclamation project of ASSERCO, a company controlled by the F.F. Cruz group.

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