Saga of Drilon’s Iloilo Convention Center


DURING the Senate hearing on the controversial Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) last week, Senate President Franklin Drilon said that he is “proud to be associated” with the project that is located in his hometown of Iloilo. Senator Drilon cited the fact that the government became a beneficiary of the donation of land valued at more than P520 million. Indeed, the national government did not spend a single centavo for the site of the ICC that is now being built.

On the surface, it looks like an act of magnanimity on the part of MegaWorld Corp. to generously give to the Philippine government a piece of land inside its Iloilo Business Park that is now being valued at more than half-a-billion pesos. However, this 1.7 hectare of land that Senator Drilon refers to as “prime property” donated to the Department of Tourism (DoT) has become the source of apparent anomalies in the ICC.

The reality is that MegaWorld needs the P700 million convention center being paid with public funds more than the ICC needing the land donation for its site. It is a fact the pace of development inside the 72-hetare Iloilo Business Park (IBP) has been rather slow since MegaWorld bought the old Iloilo Airport in 2007. There are hardly any locators inside the IBP, except for Richmonde and Marriott hotels owned by MegaWorld itself.

What is intriguing with the MegaWorld donation for the site of the convention center is that it was already in the Master Plan of the Iloilo Business Park when the donation was made. As Senator Sergio Osemeña III pointed out in the in Senate hearing: “As matter of fact, it could have been MegaWorld that decided where to put the convention center.” And rightly so, the ICC is conveniently located between the two hotels owned by MegaWorld.

It seems that Senator Osmeña could see through the cozy arrangement with the donation. The Vice-Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee addressed Senate President Drilon with the question on whether Andrew Tan of MegaWorld could have paid for the convention center. The most that Senator Drilon could say was “I could not speculate on that matter.” In fact, Mr. Tan could have, but did not because he got it for free.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez has said that upon completion of the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC), it will be bidded out to the private sector for its operations.

Guess who will most likely win the bid in a similar manner that Hilmarc Construction Corporation won the “negotiated procurement” of the ICC contract? Sounds like MegaWorld to me, of course!

Tax credit scam?

One of the questions that emerged on MegaWorld’s donation is what will the property developer gain from its “generosity?” No less than Senator Drilon, the ICC project proponent, admitted that “there was commercial benefit” by MegaWorld during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing. Unfortunately, that benefit is stunningly disadvantageous to the national government.

As per Drilon’s own estimate, total value of the land donation with an area of 17,371 sqms is P521 million. His computation is based on P30,000.00 per sqm that 18 times the acquisition cost of MegaWorld when they acquired the old Iloilo airport at P1,666 per sqm. MegaWorld paid P1.2 billion for the 72 hectares of land in 2007.

Hence, since MegaWorld made a donation of land valued at over P500 Million, then it will also received a tax credit of the same amount of more than half-a-billion pesos. That would be a lot of money to be lost from the government revenues.

The acquisition cost of P1,666 per sqm for 17,371 sqms of donated land is only around P29 million. Even if the cost of capital, appreciation of land value and site development are factored in, the present value of the donation would not exceed P100.0 Million, which is already a 245 per cent increase from its acquisition cost.

But, instead of receiving a tax credit of only P100 million or less, MegaWorld will now receive a tax credit of more than P500 million, which is more than P400 million than what it should get. Yet the figure of P100 million given here is already a 245 per cent increase from its acquisition cost of only P1,666.00 per sqm!

Iloilo Museum & Gallery

The P1.0 billion Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) will become a veritable White Elephant after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in September 2015. Of course, there is even the possibility that the ICC may either be not completed on time for the APEC senior ministerial meetings or that the APEC meetings will not held at the ICC because of all the controversies that surround its construction.

After the 2015 APEC meetings at the convention center in Iloilo City, it is farfetched for it to host future international conferences for the simple reason that the venue is not exactly an attractive place for delegates to go to. The regional centers of Cebu, Davao and Cagayan de Oro are more alluring than Iloilo. Even in Western Visayas (Region VI), Bacolod would be a much preferred venue for conventions than Iloilo City.

Instead of the controversial convention center, what could have been built as a tourist attraction is Museum and Gallery not only for Iloilo, but also for the contiguous provinces of Antique, Aklan and Capiz on Panay Island. When visitors go to tourist destinations here and abroad, they usually would go to museums and galleries. They do not go to a convention center unless they are delegates to the conference there.

Iloilo could have built a beautiful Museum and Gallery with a P1.0 Billion budget using the world-class talents of the likes of Architect Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa, who is world-re knowned for his Filipino Design in Architecture.

The architectural firm of Mr. Mañosa has, among others, planned and designed the Coconut Palace (now the Office of the Vice President), San Miguel Corporation building, the famous Amanpulo and Pearl Farm resorts that reflect our rich cultural heritage.

It is simply amazing that with the almost P1.0 billion in the despicable DAP funds that he received, Senate President Drilon was unable to conceive of a Regional Museum and Gallery that could be a major tourist attraction in Iloilo and a source of pride for the whole Western Visayas (Region VI). How sad.


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  1. I think the author should visit Iloilo more, or at least once before judging the city to be least preferred for conventions. I just hope someday u wont eat your words.

  2. Leodegardo Pruna on

    Who would believe Sen. Drilon except himself. He thinks that he can fool the Filipinos with his language, but his own language reveal what is inside him. God bless the Philippines.

  3. Jack and the Bean Stalk on

    That is why Philippines will never progress because of people like you Rick Ramos. The people of Iloilo are very happy of the positive development that is going on right now in Iloilo. I am working in Dubai UAE and often times I want to compare the government here and ours. UAE was founded in 1971 yet in a span of 43 years look at what they have achieved ( jobs, infrastructure, tourism etc,) Why? because even though the decisions made by the government is not favorable the media does not criticize the way we are doing in the P.I. but yet you see the out come positive results.Well they are not perfect but still you will see a big difference. Cops here are respected as well not like in the Philippines. The ruler Sheikhs, their decisions may not always be in favor of the whole citizenry but still we have good paying jobs. And media… well… takot lang nila na magsalita ng hinde maganda… media will always sensationalize news. Dear, Rick Ramos I dare you to write a positive article on how these developments in Iloilo will benefit the General public, Hinde lang yung tira lang ng tira ng negative criticism. Peace!

  4. You are right on. This is not a donation since it is obvious and blant that Megaworld has conditions on how the ICC should be built in connection to the lot. In fact, Megaworld had an instant benefit in terms of tax exception for what you said is an overpriced lot.

    I also think that Sen. Drilon committed a deplorable act of “confilct of interest, influence peddling” when he admittedly under oath that he approached MEGAWORLD about the lot. He should have had “hands off”. Drilon does not seem to understand an immoral (and illegal or unlawful in CANADA, USA, UK, ETC.) “conflict of interest and influence
    peddling”. An appearance of conflict if interest in unlawful, let alone a blantant act of conflict of interest.

    He shoulf be investigated further. How much does he receive or will be receiving from ICC PROJECT, from Hilmarc or public purse for overpricing?

    • I think government cannot provide an architectural design itself. the positive side is that the developer also donated the Architectural services. Is there any problem with that.? I think That’s for the common good of the people of Iloilo.

  5. Mega World donated 1,5 ha. DOT. But we all forgot that the entire Megawold Property was an old Iloilo Airport own by the government. The probe must and should start from here. Who brokered for the sale of the government property to megaworld? What was the role of Drilon et al. Who negotiated for the price. Where the money from the sale went or used.

    Stories like the property was donated for the exclusive use of the lot as airport and old owners claiming their rights over the land when it is no longer used as airport has been hanging.

    The donation is just a drop in the ocean.

    My question is: who prepared the design of the ICC. How much government paid for the design. What it the original design ? How many storeys? Who approve the design and when?

    Who approved the final cost estimate and what plans.specifications were approved.

    What was the the true cost per square meter for the ground floor, 3nd, third etc.
    DPWH must submit the authentic documents to support their claim. An independent appraiser must be hired together with the technical audit team of COA to determine whose telling the truth. Is their a post audit duly conducted before final acceptance of the project was made?

    On the other hand, who constructed the Iloilo Hall of Justice when Drilon was the SEcretary of Justice that time. Bukay knows better.

    • Ang bobo mo naman, read history first before commenting. Pwede mong mabasa ang wikipedia kung gusto mo para matauhan ka.

  6. I CAN ONLY SEE POSITIVE THINGS…I call this a smart goal and will surely benefit not just the stakeholders but most Illongos. Iloilo have just added a tourist spot and structure to be proud of. You have both ICC and Megaworld built in Iloilo to creat a better Iloilo and provide much needed work for Ilonggos. I see this project as a boom to the tourism and business in Iloilo. Unfortunately the reporter sees it is as a white a elephant. I think we as a nation should start pointing out the positive things….

    • The P450 Million Cebu Convention Center (CCC) became a White Elephant after the the 2007 APEC meeting. Of course, the same will not happen with the Iloilo Convention Center (ICC) because it will be Worse. There will be the lack of future international conferences that can use it the ICC.

    • This is not the kind of scepticism we need these days. We don’t always need international conferences for this convention centre to survive. There’s a lot of big conferences nationally that take place on a daily basis. Why don’t DOT started promoting Philippines to the international market as a good destination for meetings and conferences abroad other than the usual beaches and so on? Iloilo has a direct link to Singapore and Hongkong and its airport is of an international standard anyway.

    • The 450 m Cebu Convention center is not the same as Iloilo Convention Center. If indeed it was a white elephant it is because the head of CCC may not have considered other means of creating revenues for CCC.

    • R. B. Ramos how sure are you that ICC will be worse than CICC? Don’t you know that ICC is what Iloilo needs at this point in time? How could I be sure of that? Well, just try to see how many conferences and conventions are being held in Iloilo everyday and how many big conventions were transferred to cebu, davao and manila because Iloilo have no available convention centers like ICC. Ask the convention centers in Iloilo for your own enlightenment. And being at the center of the business park. ICC will be the complete opposite of the CICC, mark may word.

  7. share ko lang po ibang link about sa ICC sa mega world
    na sinasabi kasama sa master plan ng Mega world ang ICC.

    ang ICC ay nasama nalamang sa masterplan ng Megaworld after na i lauch noong November 2012 at ito naman ang link :

    sa Ibaba link naman ng old Master plan ng Iloilo Business Park

    sa pag ka alam ko po sir, sa unang master plan ng iloilo business park by mega world, walang iloilo convention center nakalagay. dati ang katabi ng richmonde hotel sa master plan ay ang le grand richmonde hotel na ngayon ay siyang tinatayuan ng ICC.

    • eto yung nakalagay sa link na binigay mo:

      Two hotels will complement the company’s mantra for the Iloilo Business Park. The first is the businessman’s hotel Richmonde Hotel Iloilo which is currently under construction. The other one is a grander counterpart, the Le Grand Richmonde Hotel which is complete with ballroom and convention facilities. These twin developments are intended to encourage more business and tourism opportunities here in the city.

      The convention center in the pipeline is one of the unique features of Iloilo Business Park apart from having high concentrations on BPOs.

      merong nakalagay na convention center.

    • ang point ko lang ay yong sinabi ng writter base din sa sinabi ni Senator Sergio Osemeña III na nasa master plan na ang ICC, pero sa old master plan na pinakita ng MW ng itinayo ang Richmonde Hotel ay wala naman ang ICC. kaya nasa pipeline ang convention center dahil basi nga sa sinabi ni sen drilon my plan siya o may gusto siyang ipatayo na convention center kung saan nakipagkita si sen drilon sa may ari ng MW.

  8. Iloilo Convention. Center, the pet project of Drilon in his PDAF and DAP funds are personally profiting ventures in the guise of tourist attraction. Drilon must have discussed the donation/built transaction with Megaworld which makes Drilon proud to have it funded an APEC venue which covers his profit-making projects that will earn him commissiôns/kickback in a guise of Iloilo tourist center attraction. Drilon is making the people believe it is tourist attraction after the APEC meetin in 2015, when ICC is for the benefit of the hotels of Megaworld. Who are the tourists who will make use of a convention center? How stupid Drilon can be unless he really used it as a ploy for his PDAF and DAP funds for his commissiôns! You are right as no tourist uses a convention center. They’d rather go to Museums and galleries. Drilon have been using his PDAF of at least 4billion since he became Senator for twenty years at 200 million a year PDAF funds for schoolhouses, municipal halls, market places and he must have been closely associated with the developers constructors for commissiôns of 400 million more or less. Drilon must be investigated for all his PDAF and Dap funds for all his years as Senators.

    • I am from Dubai and back in the 80’s I could only see the vast desert and camels prowling. But now no one would have thought even on my wildest dream that Dubai will become the best city in the world. The reason and only reason I see is that they have a great leader who has great vision. Most noticeable on my stay for the last 30 years nobody question his programs at least on newspaper or TV. Unfortunately in our country everybody appears to be questioning a structure built by the administration or vice versa. Why? It’s pretty much an attitude issue. People don’t make proper or consgtructive criticism anymore. Most comments I see are negative and certainly not good for our country which is struggling to make economic gains and political reforms. I hope and pray that our country’s economy moves to the right meaning progress.

    • Jack and the Bean Stalk on

      @ Jun Adan ikaw ano nagawa mo positively sa bansa natin? In terms of development and infrastructure? How to create more jobs para hinde na kami mangingibang bansa? Para maboost yung tourismo? Ano? Ano? I’m sure wala… Tira lang ng tira ng critisismo at least si Frank Drilon merong initiative para gawin yung sa palagay nya ay makakabuti at makaktulong sa bansa hinaluan nyo lang ng pulitika at malisyosong intention ang mga ginagawa nya.

    • Several Illongos in Iloilo is defending Drillon and his ICC project, but is there a blueprint for the so-called project? Was there a project study, or is it fact that Drillon in all possibility discussed this with Megaworld? In multi-billion projects, even million projects, no investor will get into the same without project studies as to the viability of the same. Where is Drillons or government project study? It was never mentioned nor discussed during the Senate hearing. If it was, maybe in passing. The same Illongo Drillon defenders maintain that Iloilo have the right to have an expensive structure like the ICC to attract what? Conventions? What infrastructure do we have in Iloilo to support say, a huge Convention? And for how much? Will it not be stupid for Convention organizers to hold their Convention in Manila, or Cebu or Davao where conventions have been successfully organized and infrastructure already in place. The bottom line in this subject matter is Drillon has nothing to think about to invest his PDAF and DAP so he can make as much kickback as he wants, of course with his local political allies who also share the kickbacks themselves and will make them look good by the citizens in Iloilo, without the same citizens not knowing that they are being fried by their own oil in taxes they pay.

    • Pipe down innocent, you sounded more like a ‘naive’. You need to visit Iloilo in a ‘not so distant ‘ future to see for your self how far Iloilo had become, then you could pass your judgement and you could see the development by yourself. Let’s recap our history here. Iloilo was already progressive back in the Spanish era and American period. Old buildings and colonial buildings are aplenty and heritage conservation is ongoing and plenty more are in the pipeline. The oldest department store in the Philippines outside of Manila is still standing, albeit the name has been changed over time. The decline in sugar industry had brought Iloilo down to its knees. Political situation didn’t help it either. Now that we are seeing the renaissance of the city, people are trying to stop its progress simply because the pace is dizzying that other cities in the country couldn’t keep up. Come on Philippines, catch up with the rest of the world!

  9. It’s more of a steam rather than a smoke I’d say, so there’s no fire. It beggars belief that a project such as this is always tainted with politics. The evidence had been laid out by the accused in the senate hearing just less than a fortnight ago. The accuser on the other hand purely relied on Wikipedia? What’s that all about? Cambodia is going to build a Zaha Hadid designed building, a truly world class memorial building for that matter. How would that leave the Philippines behind in terms of infrastructure? By miles and miles. When are we going to build a world class facility? Philippines have always had to contend with a substandard facility while the rest of Asia had moved on. And mind you, the size of a city shouldn’t be a measure of how it attracts investment and what not. Singapore is just a little city state but look how progressive it is. As to the author’s view, I think he already jumped to his horses by the sound of it. He is no Nostradamus to say what would happen to it after. He might end up with his tail between his legs.

  10. jose btaganahan on

    Whether building an international airport or an international convention center, I am all against it if a feasibility study will not justify its construction regardless if corruption is involved or not.

    Which is why I am against the construction of the Bacolod (Silay) International Airport and the proposed Bohol International Airport. The old airports can still be improved by widening and extending their runways. Only about 8 or 10 commercial planes land in each of the Bohol and Bacolod Airports daily which to me do not justify the multi billion peso cost of constructing the new airports.

    • Why? Are you stuck in the 50’s or 60’s? We desperately need to improve all the infrastructures from North of the Philippines down to southern tip. In the globalised economy, we need to be competetive as a country and we are now being left behind by our neighbours all across Asia. Foreign investors look at the infrastructure of a country on how to move goods and products and ease of travel before they consider investing. Now then, how can we grow our manufacturing sector without modern infrastructures?

  11. What did you say on

    How is Iloilo not attractive? The people of Iloilo have worked very hard to make it what it is today. It is far from the Iloilo I know 10 years ago. Back then roads were 4 lanes max, a horrible airport, frequent floods, a dirty river, congested port, waste management was a problem. Now, we have the Iloilo Esplanade that attracts so many people to the city. Add to that the beautification of Calle Real. Roads are mostly 6 lanes, with 10 being the widest. We have international flights. There is also a synergy with tourism efforts in the Iloilo towns and the province of Guimaras. You may have noticed we are the sixth most competitive city in this country. True, there are a lot of problems that need to be resolved like corruption, health access, lack of education, pollution (particularly air), traffic, etc. I agree that those are primarily what Ilonggos need to address, but to downgrade us as nothing but a small city left in the shadows of our neighbors is unacceptable. We worked hard to arrive where we are, and we fight hard to address those concerns. We built a city college, we expanded the regional hospital, we installed bike lanes to reduce pollution, we boosted tourism to stimulate businesses, and so much more.

    The next time you write an article that is insulting to our people, make sure to substantiate your claims first. Explain every point clearly and with backing sources (not Wiki or hearsay). That’s how you become credible. Otherwise, this article becomes nothing more than tabloid that’s meant to hurt Iloilo and it people.

    P.S. Read up first on that museum argument. We’re building two: and

    P.P.S. None of what I wrote was insulting, only critical. I do hope you find it in your heart to post my comments. Thank you.

  12. What did you say on

    First off, it’s insulting to downgrade Iloilo as a small city and that there are better cities suited to host APEC when it’s one of the most progressive cities in the country, ranking 17th in the country and first in WV when it comes to HDI ( I don’t have to explain. HDI, but there is always Wiki if you need to.

    How can you also substantiate your claim that other cities are more alluring than Iloilo? Granted that it’s an opinion and that the other cities you mentioned are beautiful, why include with it saying Iloilo doesn’t deserve the APEC hosting?

  13. The valuation of Drilon on the land donation to the government for the ICC is 18 times the acquisition cost of MegaWorld. Yet the same land was bought from the government in 2007. Who is the “Criminal Genius” here? Niloto tayo sa sariling mantika?

    • Sir are you not aware of the inflation in the price of real estates? The land that you bought say 2007 if surveyed in 2014 will not be of the same price even if the land was NOT developed. Iloilo’s Old Domestic airport was just a cracked landing strip, flood prone, and grass occupied area with an unmaintained facility.

      If you have come to visit the lot now, flood free, elevated, well laid out roads, and upcoming residential and commercial lots. Buildings havr been rising. The argurment with the area’s development is just plain silly.

      I am not in argue with drillon’s innocence here. My point is, before we say anything about Iloilo, maybe we need to see it ourselves first. Not just based on what the internet or what others may say.

      It is downgrading to say Iloilo is not worth visiting. Have you been there sir? If yes, when? Ten years ago?

      We Ilonggos find your article very insulting. Especially on the last part.

  14. When there is smoke, one will be almost certain that there is a fire. Corruptions excepts no one in the Senata. Or shall I say, 99 % are corrupt in the senate. (And other governmental agencies). That is why Philippines is among the listed most corrupt countries in the world. Sad to say that is just the way of life in the Philippines. The country needs a leader like Lee Kuan Yew, the founder of modern Singapore. Tough but firm.

  15. When there is smoke, there is fire. Knowing how a smart operator Franklin Drillon, one will not be surprised that there were already arrangements hatched by Drillon and Megaworld. But why build a convention center in a small City as Iloilo? How many conventions will Iloilo organize in one year. For sure this project is a white elephant built to make government executives in Iloilo and Drillon richer. Just look at what happened to the Cebu Convention Center. It is not used regularly and not maintained so it is starting to fall apart. Sure, Megaworld may be interested to buy that Iloilo elephant but for how much? Megaworld knows how it really cost and will ask for a lower price plus tax incentives. Who looses? Of course not Drillon, not the Iloilo government executives but the tax-payers of the Philippines.

    • why blame a SMALL city of Iloilo of being small not deserving of a beautiful world class convention center. She have been invincible and needs a face lift to boost her economy and tourism. why assume already the convention center will not prosper and a white elephant when it is not finish yet. give them a chance to show the nation it is different from others.

    • No one ask about the land donated by Mega world to DOT..the land was the formerly owned by the government..the Old Iloilo was bought by Mega World during GMA time..Guess whose initiative..syempre the man from Iloilo..Nagkakaso si GMA sa Ombudsman dahil dito pero na dismiss din. Napkalakas naman ni Drilon kay andrew TAn nakumbinsi nya na idonate yong lupa na ganun na lang..hindi pa yon gumawa pa ng convention center pondo ng government… me plano na ang Mega world na gumawa ito.. tamang tama dumating si Mr. Iloilo.. gobyerno ang gagawa para sa Mega gamit ang plano nila na kakabit sa sa condition sa Deed of Donation..magkano ang kinita sa pagbenta ng lupa ng dating Iloilo Airport at sino agent ang kumita dito…laki din ang kita niya sa pag construct ng New Iloilo airport… alam ni syjuco ito..