Biz Buzz: Not-so-fair ways
What does a buyer do when he acquires a condominium unit—on the penthouse floor, at that—at one of Metro Manila’s swankiest addresses, and find out later on that the condo developer couldn’t deliver the certificates of title to him?
More alarmingly, what should a condominium buyer do when he finds out that this developer (owned by a prominent and well-respected family) had used the title for his penthouse unit—along with several titles of other condos in the building—as collateral for a bank loan, even before they were sold to their unwitting buyers?
That’s the massive headache faced today by a small realty firm called Apple Orchard Properties Inc., which paid more than P12 million for a penthouse unit at the Fairways Tower in Bonifacio Global City built by Philtown Properties Inc.
According to Apple Orchard, it had fully paid Philtown the asking price for the penthouse unit as early as July 2010. Alas, despite “repeated demands and follow-ups,” Philtown continuously failed to deliver the titles.
Of course, the owners of Apple Orchard were in possession of the penthouse unit, but they wanted a title in black in white to prove that they actually owned the condo. This meant that they could not sell the unit since no buyer would shell out money for a property that had no title.
They couldn’t even monetize the property by way of mortgage because—as it turned out rather unpleasantly—Philtown had used several titles of some units in Fairways Tower as collateral for a company loan it took out from China Banking Corp. some years back.
(If, knock on wood, the realtor is unable to repay the loan, the bank could foreclose on the condos and the buyers who are fully paid would find themselves kicked out into the well-manicured BGC streets.)
In any case, Apple Orchard sent two demand letters to Philtown president Eleuterio Coronel (who has since moved to the Filinvest group) starting in 2012. Despite giving the company repeated extensions, Philtown was still unable to deliver the titles (because apparently the loan was still outstanding).
A frustrated Apple Orchard then filed a complaint with the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) to compel Philtown to surrender the titles, and the real estate regulator promptly ruled in favor of Apple Orchard only recently.
At this point, you’d think that Philtown would turn over the titles to the rightful owners posthaste since the government had already stepped in and ruled against it. In addition, Apple Orchard had heard that the realtor was already able to retrieve its collateral from China Bank.
But no. Still no title to this day. According to our source, Philtown sent a message to Apple Orchard’s owners that went something like this: “Your titles are ready. But can you take care of paying the transfer tax?”
Now, depending on how big your unit is, transfer fees run anywhere from P500,000 to P800,000 per property. Needless to say, the aggrieved owners of Apple Orchard were left aghast at what they described as an “adding-insult-to-injury” maneuver.
“I’m just a small businessman,” said the owner of Apple Orchard, who is involved in the feast-or-famine film business. “They’re a conglomerate. It’s unbelievable.”
It should be interesting to see how this plays out.–Daxim L. Lucas
SCTEx woes: Metro Pacific may sue
The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) published this week the price challenge terms for the 94-kilometer Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, paving the way for its long-delayed turnover to the private sector early next year.
Nothing could possibly go wrong at this stage, right? Wrong.
It appears Manuel V. Pangilinan’s Manila North Tollways Corp.—whose SCTEx offer was improved three times since 2011 before BCDA decided to subject it to a price challenge anyway—has taken issue with how the process is being conducted.
While it has agreed “in principle” that their offer be challenged, it did so only on the express condition that “the terms of such price challenge shall be agreed by BCDA and MNTC”.
There is no provision, after all, for such a challenge within the business and operating agreement signed with the government in 2011.
As such, MNTC is viewing this price challenge as an amendment to the original contract, but so far, it said, the government has been acting unilaterally.
“We were even surprised they went ahead and published the terms on Monday,” said MNTC president Rodrigo Franco, who added that they have written BCDA about this specific concern.
MNTC, which hasn’t seen the final terms of reference, is also concerned there might be changes it was unaware of.
Of course, the price challenge—ordered by the Office of the President—can proceed if the government really wants to, but its results, according to MNTC, may not be legally binding.
Put another way, if the government continues with the process unilaterally, MNTC can basically sue them and that will delay the takeover of SCTEx further.
For now, MNTC is asking that the BCDA hold a meeting to “immediately” discuss the necessary amendment to the agreement as well as the SCTEx price challenge terms before the TOR is released.
Now it’s up to BCDA what happens next. The next crucial date is on Dec. 11, when the terms of reference are set to be released.–Miguel R. Camus
COD sneak peek
City of Dreams Manila, the newest integrated resort to rise at the Pagcor Entertainment City complex, is set to offer a sneak peek of what it touts to be a “new era of entertainment” this Sunday, Dec. 14, at exactly 2:38 p.m.
This schedule for the soft opening has been picked for the complex by a feng shui master from Hong Kong, we’re told.
But this isn’t supposed to be a big media event, being only the soft opening of the $1.2-billion facility jointly developed by SM group-led Belle Corp. and Macau casino giant Melco Crown.
No, Hollywood star Robert de Niro (part owner of the chef-centric boutique hotel Nobu, which will be among the hotel brands to rise in the complex) won’t be back yet. Neither will there be big international celebrity guests.
“We will save that all for our grand opening,” Belle vice chair Willy Ocier told Biz Buzz.
And when will the much-awaited grand opening be? It will be sometime in February next year, before the Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb. 19, 2015, Ocier said.
The second integrated resort to open in Pagcor City after Bloomberry Resort Corp.’s Solaire Resort & Casino, City of Dreams Manila promises a “world of exhilarating gaming spaces, world-class dining experiences, plush accommodations and awesome play.”
Located on a 6.2-hectare site at the gateway to Entertainment City, it will offer about 380 gaming tables, 1,700 slot machines and 1,700 electronic table games upon opening.
It was earlier announced that “Pangaea” and “Chaos”—two of the hottest global nightclub brands frequented by A-listers, and both developed by the group led by “International King of Clubs” Michael Van Cleef Ault—will be situated in its Fortune Egg, an architecturally unique dome-like structure, which will be accented with creative exterior lighting design and is expected to become a landmark of the Manila Bay area. Fingers crossed.–Doris C. Dumlao
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