BAGUIO City’s ambitious multi- billion peso plan to rehabilitate the public market will proceed as planned next year even as the coming election rolls in, Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong said.

According to Magalong, the city’s Public Private Partnership for the People Selection Committee (P4-SC) procedure will continue as they are currently proceeding, as the P4-SC’s actions are not covered by the election ban enacted during the campaign period for the May elections.

While the process remains in the negotiation phase, Magalong said that the teams of both the city and SM Prime Holdings, who still hold the original proponent status (OPS) for the project, are now working on the final terms of reference for the project, expected to be completed by mid-January, though Magalong said that there is possibility that the negotiations may again be extended.

Under the P4-SC rules and regulations, the final terms of reference agreed upon by the negotiating teams will then be published to allow other interested proponents to participate in the subsequent Swiss Challenge stage. In the challenge stage, other developers will submit offers and plans, which the city will then compare to those of SM Prime Holdings to decide whether to award the project to another proponent or stick with the OPS holder.

While the selection process so far has been hit with criticism from many sectors of Baguio and have elicited a mix of opinions from locals, Magalong has staunchly defended the decision, and says that the project will benefit the city and the residents first and foremost.

The mayor has previously allayed concerns about the privatization of the market, saying that the city government will manage and operate the public market even if a private entity will handle most of the heavy lifting.

Magalong also said that after months of negotiations, the current original proponent SM Prime Holdings has agreed to revise the plans to be more beneficial to the people of Baguio, heeding the mayor’s call to turn the project into a “legacy project” instead.

While the specifics are still covered by a non-disclosure agreement as part of the negotiation procedure, Magalong said that the plans have been revised so that the market vendors and the city government will get more than double the space out of the planned modern market than originally proposed, reducing the mall portion of the plans.