Lawyer Lucas Carpio Jr., counsel for the Salug Valley Enterprises and Development Corp. (SVEDC), said there is already a perfected contract between the City Government and SVEDC Group since 2015, which cannot be unilaterally revoked or renounced by one party without the consent of the other.
Carpio made the statement through a five-page letter addressed to Vice Mayor Celedonio “Celsi” Sitoy on Jan. 23, 2023, in response to the City Council’s directive to the group to submit to his office various documents pertaining to the MNRDP.
These include SVEDC Group’s qualification requirements, notice of award (NOA) and Contractual Joint Venture Agreement (CJVA) requirements, which they were told to submit within five days, according to Carpio.
“Your directive to SVEDC Group to submit the above-stated documents, to prove the validity of the NOA and CJVA, is whimsical, arbitrary and confiscatory,” said Carpio.
“These constitute patent breaches, not only of the law on obligations and contracts, but also of the Anti-Graft Laws,” he added.
The City Council warned SVEDC that its failure to submit the documents within the said period could mean the cancellation of the NOA to the SVEDC Group and the CJVA between the latter and the Lapu-Lapu City Government.
Carpio noted that the City had already issued the NOA to SVEDC on Nov. 14, 2014 yet, during the term of former mayor Paz Radaza.
The CJVA was executed and signed by and between the City Government, represented by Radaza, and the SVDEC Group, represented by Dr. Noli Arnulfo Igano, on July 30, 2015.
Carpio said the CJVA was approved by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA), which oversees reclamation projects in the country.
“Non-submission of the requested documents that were already submitted to and considered, evaluated, reviewed and approved by Lapu-Lapu City prior to the issuance of the NOA and execution and signing of the CJVA is not a ground for the invalidation of the NOA and cancellation of the CJVA,” said Carpio.
“Hence, it is so perplexing that SVEDC Group is now again being required to submit the subject documents when the NOA had already been issued and the resulting CJVA had already been signed and executed between Lapulapu City and SVDEC Group,” he added.
Carpio said they trust that the City will take the only legal and equitable actions under the circumstances — to respect the CJVA, pursue the issuance of the area clearance, implement MNRDP jointly with the SVEDC Group and comply with its obligations under the CJVA.
He stressed that the PRA confirmed that only the area of clearance to be issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is the only document required for the implementation of the CJVA, which was already requested by SVEDC through the assistance of the PRA.
The counsel said the present administration is barred from assailing the validity of the NOA duly issued by the latter in favor of the SVEDC Group as well as the CJVA between the two parties.
He further said the City has been consistent in its stance that the only reason the project cannot proceed is that the petition for declaratory relief filed by the Lapu-Lapu Holdings Corp. against the Lapu-Lapu City Government is still pending.
Meanwhile, lawyer and former city councilor Michael Dignos, who was the project manager of MNRDP, denied the allegations that he did not turn over any documents pertaining to the project when Chan assumed office in 2019.
“When Atty. Allan James Sayson directed the undersigned to turn over all the documents of the MNRDP, I immediately started the inventory of the documents in the steel cabinet and in the 16 boxes of files for turnover but for no reason at all, I was rushed to make the turnover on July 29, 2019, hence I could not render a detailed report on the said turnover,” said Dignos in his letter addressed to Sitoy, who is the presiding officer of the City Council.
The former city councilor said upon his exit as the project manager, the SVEDC Group complied with all the documents required for the implementation of the project except for the issuance of an updated area clearance from the DENR and notice to proceed from the PRA, which he said were withheld because of the pending petition for declaratory relief.
Dignos said both the area clearance and notice to proceed are deliverables of the City Government considering that there is no injunction issued against the City before he stepped down as member of the City Council last June 30, 2022.
He said it is not the missing documents that stalled the implementation of the MNRDP but the absence of an area clearance and notice of award, “aside from the seeming lackluster handling of the matter by the public servants assigned or designated thereto.”
Sitoy told SunStar Cebu on Saturday, March 4, that they were able to establish that the SVEDC Group has no financial capability, adding that Igano admitted at the session that his group needs a partner to implement the project.