IT looks like the city will pursue the proposed public market development with SM as the original project proponent, this despite the lingering question on the action of Mayor Benjie Magalong in giving SM the Original Proponent Status (OPS) through the recommendation of his own Ad Hoc Committee and not by the P4SC as provided for under the law.
It will be recalled that the PPP Center has rendered an opinion/analysis on the issue upon request by the city council, which specifically stated that it is only the P4SC that is mandated by law to submit a recommendation to the city mayor as to who must be given the Original Proponent Status. The Ad Hoc Committee created by the mayor is not authorized to do so.
Be it remembered that the P4SC recommended to the mayor that Robinsons be given the Original Proponent Status. It did not recommend SM, although SM had also submitted a project proposal. Had P4SC recommended the two, Robinsons and SM, the mayor could have all the right to create its Ad Hoc Committee to study the proposals of Robinsons and SM and recommend to the mayor as to which corporation the coveted Original Proponent Status shall be given.
From reports, the city mayor merely dismissed as “opinion” the analysis of the PPP Center, a government instrumentality that has the expertise on the matter. Accordingly, the city mayor allegedly claims that PPP Center’s opinion is based on the wrong information provided for by some members of the city council. Apparently stinged by the city mayor’s comment, Coun. Maylen Yaranon said that the documents submitted to the PPP Center were provided by the P4 Committee. She asked: How can documents signed by him (the Mayor) be(sic) misinformation? Everything that was submitted to the PPP Center was based on facts.
When the negotiations between the city and SM started, some organizations and well-known Baguio personalities were invited to join the dialogue, for purposes of transparency. However, the participants were required to sign a non-disclosure clause that they are not supposed to discuss or reveal whatever transpired in the negotiation. Where is the transparency there? In fact, at the later stages of the negotiation, it is supposed to be “closed-door”. We are now confused about the meaning of OPEN and TRANSPARENT! “SIKA NGAY?”
The city plans to hold a dialogue with the PPP Center to clear the issue and yet it continues to negotiate with SM. In fact, the city and SM will conduct a joint survey to determine the area of the public market to be developed (30,400 sq. m. or 29,000 sq. m.), as if SM is now assured to clinch the contract to develop the prime jewel of Baguio – the heart and soul of Bag-iw.
But we sense a court litigation coming, even as the Baguio Market Vendors Association (BAMARVA) is poised to submit the issue to a peoples initiative, that will give time for the City and its people to consider other alternative modes of public market development.
Which will bring us back to our conviction that a public market should be open and not be boxed. Many progressive cities give special attention to their public markets because they showcase the history, cultural diversity and heritage of the place and its people. Tourists and visitors always remember Baguio because of their pleasant public market experience. I should know, being a newsboy cum tourist guide in my childhood days.
We also believe that the city and its people have the capacity to consider a low impact market development and finance it. There are national artists in our midst and architects who know the Baguio spirit and can design it. About the financing, come on Baguio folks, let us use our coconuts and dig into our local government code on how we can raise the money! Let us not depend on the big-time financiers who can make use of public-private partnership laws to their own advantage. After all that is what they are good at – making more money.