Okada group vows to pursue $2B entertainment hub in Manila



MANILA, Philippines — The group of Japanese tycoon Kazuo Okada has affirmed commitment to a $2-billion entertainment hub being developed in the Philippines, adding that it’s finalizing negotiations with a prospective local partner alongside efforts to deal with local land ownership restrictions.

Okada’s Universal Entertainment Corp. issued on Tuesday a statement from Tokyo following reports in the Philippines that the Department of Justice (DOJ) had recommended the filing of charges against 26 people and corporations, including Okada himself, for alleged violation of the country’s anti-dummy laws.

The DOJ cited restrictions under the fundamental law of the land, the 1987 Constitution, which required 60 percent local ownership of land. Foreign investment regulations likewise cap foreign equity in the gaming business at 40 percent, the DOJ stated.

In its statement, Universal Entertainment said it had been “cooperatively” working with the Philippine government’s Officer of the General Counsel (OGCC) since 2012 and was advised it would have “until the completion of the development to resolve the land issue.” “Hence, based on this recommendation we have since sought ways to find an amicable resolution to the problem. Currently, we are already in the final stages of negotiations to secure potential local partners and finding a conclusion to the ownership of land,” the Japanese group said.

Okada earlier lost the group of taipan John Gokongwei as an ally in his upcoming Philippine gaming hub but there are “ongoing” discussions with property tycoon Andrew Tan’s Empire East Land Holdings Inc. Recently asked whether talks have expanded to include ELI’s potential ownership of land where the casino and other components of the project would rise, ELI president Chalemagne Yu had said: “Talks are very preliminary. (They are) really expressions of interest for a joint undertaking in the residential development.

Universal Entertainment, which would operate the project through wholly owned Tiger Resorts, Leisure and Entertainment Inc., said it couldn’t help but “speculate and express concern if there is any direct influence from our civil litigation against Wynn Resorts or the U.S. Federal Bureaus investigation.”

Okada has been accused of making improper payments to Philippine regulators to secure a gaming license.

“We will continue to develop our dream of a fully integrated resort in Manila Bay that will not only create 15,000 stable jobs for the country but together with the Philippine people, attract international recognition and guests from all over the world,” the company said.

Okada’s company said it received the proposal for the Pagcor Entertainment City in Manila Bay in 2007, during which it submitted its bid and plan for the project.

“Being a foreign company, we were not yet familiar with Philippine government laws and ordinances so we sought out legal counsel to guide our planning and development from the largest and most prominent law firm in the Philippines,” the Japanese group said.

The land was acquired in Manila Bay in 2008 under Philippine laws based on the advice of its legal counsel, the group said.

But in 2010, the company said the Office of The President of the Philippines had presented a new interpretation to the Grandfather Rule of foreign real property ownership laws.

The so-called grandfather rule puts weight on the nationality of the stockholders in determining the nationality of a corporation or its compliance with laws on foreign equity limits.

An amicable solution is now being discussed and talks are being finalized with a prospective local partner, according to the group.

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  • generalproblem

    mr Okada is a blessing to this country bringing 2 billion dollars investment is a record. the reason why the govt is keeping him out is due to the american lobbying againts it because their investment in macau and in singapore are in jeopardy. comparing to macau and singapore, philippine has more to offer. so if a 2 billion dollars casino finally open, macau and singapore casinos will be deserted. also most of the casino employee in macau and singapore are pinoys. the wife and the kids can enjoy the shopping and beach activities while the father is gambling. macau and singapore cannot offer that all of their beaches are polluted

  • 1ncorruptus

    @DGuardian: I agree with you. The Philippines allows dual citizenship, but how about Japan? Would it allow Mr Okada to be both a Japanese citizen and a Filipino citizen.? If not, then the Philippine government would do well by allowing any foreigner, who invests 2 billion dollars or more in our country to own the land, where he will put up his business.

  • DGuardian

    If citizenship is the main issue , then the Philippine government should just allow Mr. Okada to own the land or the site of his business. Any foreign businessman, who invests 2 billion dollars or more in the Philippines, should be given the privilege to do so.

  • ManilaMan

    Unless the DOJ is acting for the interest of some US lobby groups with ties to Steve Wynn, please give this project a go! This is the single biggest investment in the country and will definitely seal our position as Asia’s next gaming hub. Now if others are plain jealous and want in on Entertainment City, let them realize their mistake first and how they maligned our country and government, then we can probably free up some more land or reclaim the southern bay for them to play. But I have full trust in Okada, and the Japanese people. If it takes granting him citizenship or repealing the foreign ownership law, please do so! Just hope this is not another case of Filipino first, waking up the next morning with the lot given to San Miguel or SM Prime at much lower investment. Entertainment needs foreign players just as the country needs foreign visitors!

  • MahalinAngInangBayan

    The statement of the commentator below is very accurate. To quote, “Mr. Kazuo Okada is the first and only foreign businessman, who has invested 2 billion dollars in the Philippines”. Nobody has ever reposed so much trust in our country as to take such great, humongous risk, except Kazuo Okada. We should be grateful to him, instead of giving him a hard time. The Philippine government, as other commentators here have suggested, should give Mr. Okada Filipino citizenship and allow him to own the land on which Manila Bay Casino and Resort would be built.

  • 1ncorruptus

    A foreign businessman, who is daring enough to invest 2 billions of dollars in our country should be granted Filipino citizenship. Such faith, trust, and confidence in our economy and political system should be given commensurate rewards. Mr. Kazuo Okada is the first and only foreign businessman, who has invested 2 billion dollars in the Philippines and who has shown great faith in the Philippines and the Filipinos, whose image and reputation abroad border on disrepute, notoriety, and viciousness. We should be honorable enough to treat foreign investors with dignity and respect as representatives of our country and our people, instead of extorting millions of dollars from them. Our government should allow foreigners, who invest 2 billion dollars or more in our country, to be Filipino citizens and own the land on which they would put up their business.

  • wafu

    This guy means business. $2B WTF Let the old man do his thing.

    If there is something fishy, address it later. Let us have the $2B first :D

  • DGuardian

    Why doesn’t the Philippine government give Mr. Okada Philippine citizenship in order to enable him to own 100 % the land on which his casino and resort will soon rise? A foreigner, who is brave enough to take such enormous financial risk investing billions of dollars in an uncertain business venture in an unpredictable and widely-known corrupt country, should be awarded with the Philippine citizenship. Foreigners in the US are allowed to own 100% real estates. The Philippines should also grant citizenship and 100% ownership of the land to a foreign businessman, who invests 2 billion dollars or more in our country.

    • Earl Gates

      Agree! But it will lessen if not eliminate under the table and dark agreements by government officials.

  • DGuardian

    Gusto ko lang itanong kung bakit ang mga mineral resources ng Pilipinas ay ibinibigay ng Pamahalaan sa mga mining companies sa giveaway na halagang 7% tax na lagi namang hindi rin nababayaran dahil tulad ng gold na 3% lamang ng extracted gold ang naka-declared ng 26 Chinese mining companies at ang 97% ay ini-smuggled nila patungong Hong Kong. ( Please read “China’s mining occupation of the Philippines” by Atty. Rodel Rodis dated September 12, 2012 Inquirer Online).Other extracted mineral resources have, likewise, gone unreported/undeclared and are being smuggled to China. Our mineral resources are, literally, being extracted by foreigners for free. Our magnetic ores (black sand) are, also, being mined illegally by unidentified foreigners on board foreign ships, and transported out of our seas unchallenged. Why does the government give Mr. Kazuo Okada such a hard time to invest 2 billion dollars in our country, while allowing other foreigners to steal our mineral resources over so many years now? Mr. Okada wants to invest billions of dollars in the Philippines, while those foreign mining thieves divest us illegally of our mineral resources, whose accumulated amounts over the years are valued at several billions of dollars.

  • Weder-Weder Lang

    After investing $30 million for lobbying, Okada has no choice but to forge ahead with the $2 billion entertainment hub in Manila. Pagcor Chief Bong Naguiat may have pulled a fast one on him, but Okada is not exactly helpless. When push comes to shove, he can always count on his underworld Yakuza buddies who are well connected to TW, HK and Macau’s underground triads. Time for Mr. Naguiat to heed Romulo Neri’s advice — “moderate your greed.”

    • Mark

      It started with Efraim Genuino using his buddy Rodolfo Soriano Jr. to get the multi-million bribes. These two are Mr. Okada’s cohorts in circumventing the law on foreign ownership. Well, you can include the SyCip, Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan Law Firm (SSHG) as well. Sila ung kumita, dapat sila ung makulong.

      • DGuardian

        Kazuo Okada is a victim of our greedy, corrupt, and dishonorable countrymen. These Filipinos had brought tremendous shame and dishonor to our country. Why should a foreign businessman, who wanted to invest in the Philippines in good faith, be extorted of millions of dollars before he could establish and conduct business in the Philippines? Why couldn’t our government people strictly observe ethics, decency, propriety, and honesty when dealing with local and foreign businessmen?

      • Weder-Weder Lang

        Genuino or Naguiat, whoever got the bulk of the $30 million will have more to answer to Okada-san. I remember reading from this same paper that the lobby funds largely went to Naguiat. As you and I have no personal dealings with Okada-san, I leave it to him to decide whom to hold accountable.

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