July 15, 2024

The head of the committee spearheading the negotiations for the development of the city public market said the ongoing talks will continue amidst the issues surrounding the process and said the delays are for the city’s benefit.

City Administrator Bonifacio dela Peña said there are delays in the negotiation process, but these are mainly due to the meticulous scrutiny of the 34 terms of negotiation.

Dela Peña said there are other issues surrounding the negotiation, such as the opinion of the Public-Private Partnership Center that Mayor Benjamin Magalong’s awarding of the OPS to SM Prime deviated from the city’s PPP ordinance.

To recall, the P4 Committee has recommended Robinsons to be awarded the OPS, but Magalong awarded it to SM Prime instead upon the recommendation of the ad hoc committee that found the latter’s proposal is more advantageous to the city government.

Dela Peña has acknowledged the PPP opinion, but said the major reasons in the delay in the crafting of the terms of reference (TOR) for the Swiss challenge are the terms of negotiation, which consist 18 technical and 16 financial terms.

“The bulk of the delay is on the terms of negotiation. Every term must be negotiated. As of now, we are still negotiating on the land area, which is only one of the technical terms,” he said.

He added when the city and SM Prime have agreed on the 18 technical terms, only then can they proceed negotiating with the 16 financial terms.

Another concern besetting the P4 Committee is the absence of four of the 11 members, which dela Peña said impacts on the quorum during meetings, although he added he already wrote the city council and raised the concern on how the committee should decide on a quorum considering that only seven are regularly meeting.

He said the PPP ordinance is silent about inhibition of members, although he added they are addressing the issue by making sure that during meetings, the seven members are present, which he also said will be assured during negotiation meetings with SM Prime in order not to create legal complications.

The 45-day period of negotiation has lapsed more than a month ago, but dela Pena said they already informed SM Prime that it has been extended.

He said the guidelines are not very strict about the 45-day period of negotiation.

“It can be extended, depending on how the negotiation process is going. Ideally, the negotiations should be for 45 days, but with the terms of reference, hindi kaya. We have to negotiate for every term, because this P4 Committee is working for the interest of Baguio residents,” he said.

The 34 terms of negotiation incorporated the concerns of various stakeholders of the city market.

Only when SM Prime and the city government agreed on all the terms of the negotiation can the TOR for the Swiss challenge be crafted.

The Swiss challenge would allow parties interested to develop the public market to participate and match the offers of OPS holder SM Prime. – Jane B. Cadalig