Duterte okays probe of Ayala-UP technohub deal

Credit to Author: The Manila Times| Date: Thu, 23 Jan 2020 09:30:32 +0000

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has given the green light for the review of the lease contract between the Ayala Group and the University of the Philippines (UP), Malacañang said on Thursday, following allegations that the state university may be on the losing end of the deal.

Speaking to reporters, Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said on Thursday that Duterte agreed with his recommendation to look into the deal to determine whether or not such allegations were true.

He said the investigation may be initiated either by his office or the Department of Justice (DoJ).

“I told the President about this and ‘yung reaction ng Presidente ay tingnan natin kung totoo ‘yung alegasyon ng article na ‘yun (and the President’s reaction was let’s see if the allegations of that article are true),” Panelo said during a press conference.

Rekomendasyon ko (That’s my recommendation). [I told him] the night before (Wednesday). Sabi niya kailangan talaga pag-aralan yan (He said we really need to study that),” he said.

Panelo was referring to an article alleging that the Ayalas were renting the 37-hectare or 370,000-square-meter (sqm) land at only P22 per sqm a month. Ayala Land has since said that it was paying P171 per sqm monthly.

“They’re saying that UP will receive – will ha – mind you, the word is ‘will’ – future, will receive P171 per square meter ang magiging renta. And at the same time, at the end of the 25 years, UP retains the ownership plus 16 commercial buildings. Even assuming that to be true, palagay ko may problema pa nga sila eh (they might still have a problem),” said Panelo, who also serves as Duterte’s top legal counsel.

“We will investigate. We will review para malaman namin kung totoo o hindi (so that we know if this is true or not). In other words we do know exactly what),” he added.

Meanwhile, Panelo assured the business community that Duterte would continue to respect the sanctity of contracts, except for those with alleged irregular provisions that violate the country’s laws.

“Let me allay the fears of foreign investors as well as Filipino businessmen. You don’t have to worry about the review because there’s nothing (wrong) with your contracts, there is nothing to worry about,” Panelo said.

“The President will certainly respect the sanctity of contracts except only when from the very provisions it appears to be contrary to law, contrary to public interest and public policy,” he said.

The National Economic and Development Authority earlier said the recent moves of the Duterte administration to review business contracts have caused concern from the business sector and credit rating agencies.

But the Palace official said that the government would “not be reckless” in stepping into contracts that were above board.

“Everything is being considered but there is nothing to worry on the part of the businessmen whether foreign or locals. Because the government will not be reckless to step into any contract that is not contrary to law,” Panelo said.

“Any pronouncement that says that the government will examine, evaluate or review onerous contracts is not something that businessmen should be afraid of. Because it is the duty of the government precisely to protect the interest of the Filipino people,” he added.

Government’s contracts with different private firms were put under scrutiny after the President criticized the supposedly onerous agreements with water suppliers Maynilad and Manila Water.

Last week, Duterte said he would not be cowed by the possibility that investors may be dissuaded from investing in the Philippines.

“If you thought that they would be getting out of the Philippines, fine go out, be my guest. I will not be intimidated or even fear the possibility of reduced investment in this country,” he said.

“What I’m after is justice for the Filipino people. For all I care, they can all withdraw but (I) still have to maintain what’s a matter of dignity for us,” the President added.