Chavit Singson claims he now holds Miss Universe PH franchise

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(Photo by Isabella Montano/CNN Philippines)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 13) — Former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis "Chavit" Singson claimed he has acquired the franchise rights of Miss Universe (MU) in the Philippines.

This is contrary to Binibining Pilipinas Charities Inc. (BPCI) chairperson Stella Marquez-Araneta's earlier statement that the organization remains as the official local franchise holder of the pageant.

In an interview with Philippine Star columnist Wilson Lee Flores, Singson said the franchise "is already with me," but it has yet to be announced.

"I think it shall be formally announced this January or February, when Catriona (Gray) comes back again to the Philippines," he added.

Singson said he has been in talks with the MU Organization regarding the franchise takeover since 2016 when he helped fund the Philippines' hosting of the international pageant.

"'Binibining Pilipinas Universe' will be replaced with 'Miss Universe Philippines.' Noon pa binibigay sa akin 'yan (It was being offered to me since before), because I've been helping them since 2016," he said.

"Instead of talking to many companies before, they just talked to me and I then gave them a non-refundable deposit of $1 million. Who would disagree to that, non-refundable? I gained their trust. Before the signing in 2016, they even first asked me to pay $12 million," he recounted.

Singson even revealed that the international pageant's installation next year will be held in South Korea and North Korea will send a delegate for the first time.

"The 2019 Miss Universe will be unique because for the first time in history, North Korea will participate but no swimsuit portion for their candidate, only the national costume," he added.

Speculations about the franchise changing hand came when Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray went back to the Philippines shortly after winning in Thailand accompanied by Singson and his daughter Richelle Singson-Michael, who was part of the judges during the pageant.

READ: Catriona Gray wins PH's 4th Miss Universe crown

Araneta, earlier this month, put to rest rumors that the BPCI is no longer the franchise owner.

"It's still with us. We saw people saying something else, let them talk about it," Araneta told reporters.

The BPCI owns the MU franchise since 1964. The country's delegate to the international pageant, along with other beauty contests such as Miss International, Miss Supranational, Miss Grand International, Miss Globe and Miss Intercontinental, is chosen through the organization's annual Binibining Pilipinas pageant.