BIZ BUZZ: The SC ruling in favor of Harbour Centre
Here’s the problem for the Subic freeport locators opposed to Reghis Romero II: the Supreme Court has ruled with finality to compel Subic Bay Management Authority (SBMA) to award to the businessman’s Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. its P5.5-billion deal for the development, operation and management of several ports inside the former US naval base.
In its decision, the high tribunal recognized its duty to hold their public counterparts accountable, with the increasing role of private sector entities in development and economic growth.
According to Harbour Centre’s camp, the court reminded government entities that the ones duty-bound to ensure observance with laws and rules should not be the ones to depart therefrom. It stressed that the violation by the government of the rules it set for itself would stain the credibility of the investment environment.
As to the withdrawal of the endorsement of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) for the project, the Supreme Court noted that the 2008 joint venture guidelines do not require a new endorsement and approval of the deal. According to Harbour Centre, the court stressed that there is no legal basis for the suspension of the issuance of the notice of award due to Neda’s reversal.
According to the company, the court even explained that under the 2008 deal, the participation of the Neda is limited and its endorsement or approval was not even required. It pointed out that, under the deal’s guidelines, no further approval is necessary aside from that of the head of the government entity.
Harbour Centre also pointed to the court taking note of the fact that the Neda’s withdrawal of endorsement occurred more than a year after the SBMA board approved the deal. As such, the withdrawal should not affect the the company’s right that accrued long before withdrawal, it explained.
Romero’s firm also said the court found as unmeritorious the reasons for Neda’s withdrawal, The court found there is no basis to Neda’s claim that the project cost was initially fixed at P763 million. There was never any change in the total cost of the joint venture, and the proposal stood consistently at about P5.5 billion, it said.
In its ruling, Harbour Centre said, the Supreme Court found that the firm complied with all the legal requisites for the issuance of the notice of award and notice to proceed — which gave rise to a legal right in favor of the company and a correlative ministerial duty upon SBMA.
Because of all this, Harbour Centre said SBMA is duty-bound to comply with the final ruling of the Supreme Court.
Now all Subic stakeholders are waiting with bated breath for the next development in this multibillion peso saga. Abangan!