BAGUIO Mayor Benjamin Magalong has yet to respond to a resolution by the city council
seeking to hold in abeyance all market development talk until the validity of the awarding of original proponent status (OPS) is properly settled, as well as a letter asking the mayor to defend the validity of his decision.
Currently, the market redevelopment talks have made progress toward the next phase with the terms of reference for the project, supposedly in partnership with SM Prime Holdings.
However, the city council continues to oppose the progression of the market development project, citing the awarding of OPS to SM to be in violation of national guidelines for public-private partnerships (PPP).
In a letter, the Public-Private Partnership Center, the national authority on PPP and its rules, said that Magalong’s move is not in conformity with Section 18 of City Ordinance No. 61, series of 2017, which governs PPP in the city.
Under the guidelines in the ordinance, following evaluation by the Public-Private Partnership for the People Selection Committee (P4-SC), the mayor is then allowed to either issue a certificate of acceptance or non-acceptance to the proponent of the unsolicited proposal, or in the case of multiple proposals, either reject all proposals from all proponents or pick the superior, more advantageous proposal upon recommendation of the P4-SC.
Originally, the P4-SC chose the unsolicited proposal from Robinsons Land Corporation (RLC) over that of SM, forwarding their choice to the mayor, who under the guidelines, would then have the authority to either accept or reject the choice.
But instead of following said guidelines, Magalong in September of 2020 created an Ad-Hoc committee to “reevaluate” the decision of the P4-SC, with said committee then recommending SM as the superior proposal. Magalong then acted upon the recommendation of the Ad-Hoc committee, issuing a memorandum rejecting RLC’s proposal and granting OPS to SM.
According to the PPP Center, such a move is in violation of Ordinance 61, citing that under the law, the mayor may only pick the superior and more advantageous proposal upon recommendation of the P4-SC, and not of any other committee.
“It is in the PPP Center’s opinion that for an OPS to be granted on the basis of which proposal provides greater advantage and benefits, then the P4-SC has to evaluate the two proposals accordingly and provide in its recommendation such comparison,” the letter reads.
The letter was provided to the council in support of Proposed Resolution PR No. 04-06 by Councilor Mylen Yaranon, which seeks for the city to halt all progress on the market development until the validity of the OPS is resolved.
According to Yaranon, the mayor’s office has yet to respond to a city council letter on the matter, past the 15 days normally given upon receipt to respond to such official documents.
“We will give him another chance to explain himself and why his OPS awarding should not be considered invalid,” Yaranon said.
Yaranon, herself a member of the P4-SC, stressed the importance of following proper guidelines and having proper transparency of the process, pointing out that in addition to the PPP Center’s findings that the OPS awarding was invalid, the P4-SC continued to meet and proceed to make progress with the market development project despite failing to meet quorum during their meeting.
Yaranon has abstained from attending P4-SC meetings in protest while the validity of the OPS remains in question.
She also stressed the importance of further involving stakeholders and ensuring that the government and the people of Baguio are able to remain in control of the process.
“The mayor said the government will run the market, but then why entertain unsolicited, private proposals? I still believe we can do it ourselves, or if we will partner up then we can partner with locals instead of big corporations. We can take out loans, or we can get the people of Baguio to invest in a social enterprise,” Yaranon said.