Singapore firm wins bid for floating casino anchored in Philippines

A Singapore-based company has won the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s bidding for M/V Philippine Dream, a floating casino.

Mandaue City Revenue Election Officer Emir Abutasil, chairman of the bidding, said that Aston submitted a bid of USD 1.3 million.

The bidding was held at the BIR district office in Lapu-Lapu City as the vessel is anchored along the strait of Mactan. Abutasil said the bureau auctioned the floating casino after its owner failed to pay USD 1.3 million in tax liabilities.

He said the winning bidder could start paying for its bid at any of the BIR-accredited banks in Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City. The other two bidders, Singaporean-based Qaswa PTE Ltd. and Intercontinental Surplus Inc., submitted bids of USD 1,3 million and USD 716,000, respectively, Abutasil said.

However, Philippine Dream, owner of the vessel, questioned the regularity of the bidding process. Lawyer Roberto Consunji, counsel of Philippine Dream Inc., said that the firm had paid us$ 2,238 as part of a tax amnesty, making the bidding process irregular.

Consunji said BIR officials informed the company that BIR associate commissioner James Roldan had ruled in favor of the bidding. While the BIR gave them the whole day of September 28 to put up a cash bond, they were surprised that the auction went through in the morning of the same day, he said.

Lawyer Neri Yu, counsel of BIR in Central Visayas, cited a BIR ruling that denied the application for tax amnesty by Philippine Dream. Yu said the application did not comply with the terms and conditions set under the law.

In BIR ruling 514-2007, Roldan, head of the legal and enforcement group, also instructed the BIR ’s Central Visayas office to proceed with the auction on Friday, he added.

The Bureau of Customs (BoC), on the other hand, has said would not release the vessel to the winning bidder until Aston PTE Ltd. settles the unpaid import duties and lien of the vessel. Customs legal officer James Dybuco said that the vessel’s previous owner owed the bureau USD 273 thousand.

„We already issued a warrant of seizure and detention in July 2006 [for M/V Philippine Dream] and we will not release the vessel until we are paid. So far we have not heard from the winning bidder yet,“ he said.