THE whole country is waiting with bated breath on what is to be of the Maharlika Fund.
But for those at the Baguio City Hall, the more immediate concern is when the Maharlika Livelihood Complex is going to be turned over to them.
Maharlika, as it is more popularly known, will have its 50-year lease expire on April 27, 2025.
But the city is not sure when exactly it will be handed over to them.
The complex, which is located literally in the heart of the city, is a three-hectare prime lot located beside the Baguio Public Market.
Last year, the city requested the Human Settlement and Development Corporation (HSDC) for the possible early turnover of the said facility prior to the expiration of its lease contract. HSDC, which is part of the Department of Agriculture, is the “owner” of the facility.
During the regular session of the Baguio City Council last June 19, Atty. Maan Grace Elago who represented HSDC, said the turnover of the Maharlika building should first go through the approval of the Government Commission for GOCCs (GCG).
Elago said the HSDC has yet to receive a reply from the GCG regarding the city’s request.
Earlier in 2019, HSDC offered to return the facility to Baguio ahead of the termination of its lease, but talks were suspended during the COVID pandemic.
The turnover of the Maharlika Livelihood Complex to the city will serve as an added source of revenue to be used by the city for the implementation of its programs and projects.
But Elago said HSDC itself has been a subject for abolition as early as 2013 as it was beset with legal problems.
Baguio Councilor Fred Bagbagen said the city government will have to make sure the facility is free of legal problems before taking it back.
This is a tall order.
In 2009, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered the DA to hand over the Maharlika Livelihood Complex to the city government since it does not have any agricultural-related function. However, the facility has remained under the HSDC to date.
In 2013, the recommendation for the abolition of several Government-Owned and Controlled Corporations, which included the HSDC, was approved by the Office of the President under a memorandum. However, in the interim due to the delay in transferring its management to a certain government agency (which until now is unknown), some of the HSDC employees were rehired to manage the operations of HSDC.
In its 2015 audit report, the Commission on Audit stated that the delay in the transfer of operations and management of the Maharlika Livelihood Complex to another government agency hindered the abolition of the HSDC and the transfer of its remaining assets and balances in the books of accounts to the DA.
The Maharlika building is located within the former site of the Baguio Stone Market which was razed by fire in 1970 and was demolished in the mid-1970s.
In 1972, the city government entered into an agreement with M.G. Suntay Company for the construction, operation, and management of a multi-storey supermarket and complex shopping center which now stands as the Maharlika Livelihood Complex. The initial lease-agreement was for 25 years from the date of completion of the project.
A Deed of Assignment over the said project was executed by M.G. Suntay Trading Company in favor of Mar-Bay and Company, Inc. – With reports from Jordan Habbiling