March 27, 2023

Only an order from the Supreme Court can stop the negotiations between the city government and SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI) concerning the crafting of terms for the development of the Baguio public market.
Invited last Monday to respond to the proposed resolution submitted by Councilor Mylen Yaranon asking the P4 Selection Committee to stop the negotiations with SMPHI on account of the opinion released by the Public-Private Partnership Center that the city government did not follow the PPP Ordinance, City Administrator and P4 chair Bonifacio dela Peña said it is too late to stop the negotiations as talks with SMPHI is nearing its final stages with only three points left out of the 34 terms of development.
Dela Peña said the PPP Center has also clarified it did not ask the city government to stop the negotiations but only issued an opinion based on the facts presented to them by the city council when it asked for the PPP Center’s opinion about the plan to develop the market under public-private partnership.
“The process has commenced. It should end where it should end,” dela Peña said and stressed the negotiation with SMPHI is only a component in the process of formulating the terms of reference for the market development project.
In the P4 Ordinance, negotiation is supposed to be for 45 days. Negotiations with SMPHI started in March 2021.
He said the TOR, which the P4 Selection Committee is planning to finish before the month ends will be reviewed and approved by the city council before the committee calls for the Swiss Challenge or a process where other proponents will match the offer of SMPHI.
On the opinion of some members of the council that a better option for the market development plan is to open it for competitive bidding following the build-operate-transfer law instead of giving the upper hand to the original proponent, dela Peña said the P4 Selection Committee is of the opinion that the city government is getting the best offer if the project is offered via PPP.
“I am not aware of any company willing to recover its investment in 27 years,” dela Peña said referring to SMPHI’s supposed willingness to allow the city government to manage 70 percent of market while the remainder will be managed by the company.
SMPHI’s initial offer to the city government was it will manage 70 percent of the market for 20 years. But dela Peña said that because the committee negotiated, the company agreed to manage 30 percent, but will extend its tenure for seven years.
Dela Peña did not disclose the other terms discussed citing the parties’ signing of a non-disclosure agreement but he assured that the city’s panel of negotiators have the best interest of Baguio in mind. – Rimaliza A. Opina