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‘Smokey Mountain pact needs Congress nod’

A congressman from Manila said on Wednesday the compromise agreement to settle a legal controversy between the government and a private contractor would be voided without congressional approval.

Rep. Manuel Lopez, chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Metro Manila Development, made the statement in a letter to General Manager Marcelino Escalada, Jr. of the National Housing Authority (NHA).

The latter is reportedly set to execute the settlement with the RII Builders Inc. (RBI), contractor of the defunct Smokey Mountain Develoment Corporation and Reclamation Project (SMRDP).

The Commission on Audit (CoA) earlier questioned the NHA plan to pay RBI P1.12 billion and transfer five hectares of government land to settle the court cases with the contractor.

RBI sued NHA in its bid to recover the some P4.4 billion in assets it lost as a result of the joint venture agreement for the implementation of the Smokey Mountain project.

The COA noted a legal opinion of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel that said “there are indications that the NHA may have allegedly overpaid the RII Builders Inc (RBI), SMRDP contractor, by as much as P300 million.”

In his letter to Escalada, Lopez said the compromise agreement would only be legal through a congressional approval, citing Executive Order 292 and the Administrative Code of 1987.

“Without the approval of Congress, sought through the Commission and the president, who shall provide recommendations, any such settlement or agreement can be considered void,” he said.

Lopez also requested Escalada to submit to Congress copy of the proposed compromise agreement.

He added NHA should also provide legislators its recommendation on a “thorough a review and audit of the transactions between NHA Hand RBI.”

“Ultimately, I trust we are one in our mutual desire that all public funds are allocated only for legitimate purposes; no excessive or abusive expenditures are made, and any agreement disadvantageous to the government is disallowed,” said Lopez.

Topics: Manuel Lopez , House of Representatives , National Housing Authority , Marcelino Escalada Jr , Smokey Mountain project , Commission on Audit
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