June 20, 2024

■  Jane B. Cadalig 

The City Legal Office was tasked to draft an ordinance to serve as a basis for the collection of rent from entrepreneurs at Wright Park.

The decision was reached as the basis for the collection of rent amounting to P150 per square meter from stall holders at Wright Park remained a mystery for city officials.

City Legal Officer Althea Alberto, who was earlier requested to appear before the council, said there are no records that explicitly allow the imposition of P150/sqm on those engaging in business at Wright Park.

She cited the same 2015 resolution of the Baguio City Market Authority that authorized the collection of parking and other fees at Wright Park and Botanical Garden, but with a note from former mayor Mauricio Domogan that it should be subject to confirmation by the city council.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda was adamant about asking the legal basis for the collection of the P150/sqm from leaseholders, reminding the plight of a vendor who was issued a demand letter to settle more than P200,000.

City Treasurer Alex Cabarrubias reiterated the basis of the collection was the contract of lease, which was confirmed by the city council, although it was signed between the City Environment and Parks Management Office and stallholders at Botanical Garden.

He said the City Treasury adopted the same for the leaseholders at Wright Park to be fair to those who are paying for the use of areas in other parks.

Tabanda said fairness could not be used as a basis for the collection of rent because the imposition of fees is a task delegated to the city council.

She added even the Environment Code does not provide for the imposition of P150/sqm meter at Wright Park.

Councilor Elmer Datuin said while there are leaseholders who complain about being asked to pay their rent retroactively, there are also those who complied with demand letters.

He said some leaseholders asked for a reduction of the amount being asked of them and then paid on an installment basis.

“It would also be unfair to them if the others will not pay,” he said.

As a remedy, the council tasked the CLO to draft an ordinance on the imposition of fees at Wright Park, in consultation with the Local Finance Committee.

In the meantime, Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan said the concerns of the leaseholders who were assessed retroactively and those who already paid should be discussed in an executive-legislative session.