Palengke blues – something fishy
In 2017, the city council passed Ordinance 61 or the Baguio City Public-Private Partnership for the People Initiative for Local Government Code (Baguio City LGU P4 Code).
I was the principal author with Councilors Benny Bomogao, Michael Lawana, and former Councilors Elmer Datuin and Leandro Yangot spelling out the guidelines on joint ventures the city will pursue with the private sector.
The measure adopted the PPP template provided by the Department of the Interior and Local Government in Memo Circular 2016-120 (9.7.16) and complements the city’s Investments and Incentives Code.
In 2019, the city announced that a proposed multi-billion market redevelopment would be implemented via PPP scheme instead of loans or spending savings to ensure the sustainable operation of the facility in the future.
The city manages and operates the facility to ensure the interest of the existing vendors are protected.
Seemingly “lip service” though, because when a proposal from the market cooperative was received by the city, it was immediately thrown out for “failure” to meet qualifications when evaluation of the document was done.
The market development would be P6-billion worth complex, modern structures, walkways, and other features to be implemented in four phases in three years. It includes a six-floor building, basement parking, topped by a green garden that will house various market products. There will be zero or minimal competition of goods from vendors to mall stalls to give local sellers the spotlight.
A transfer area for vendors while ongoing construction and when done can accommodate 4,000 to 5,396 vendors. Income projection is P46 million on its first year of operation and up to P500M on the fifth. The cost of rental to the city will be offset by the development the favored one will make to the market. Today, the market generates P20M a year for the city.
Invitations were sent out. Giant mall developers SM and Robinsons participated. The city council on Feb. 20, 2020 had both proposals for a 50-year lease for the market. Noteworthy was the stand of the city from the beginning that the cooperative was boxed out and worse, the unsolicited proposals given by the giant malls will take into priority interests of over 3,000 legitimate vendors in the market.
On Aug. 12, 2020, the city administrator announced that Robinsons was granted an original proponent status (OPS) through the votes cast by the “PPP for the People” selection committee and favorably endorsed by the council. It can start negotiations for a PPP though proposal details were kept confidential.
Hizzoner had another view and on his own on Oct.14, 2020, signed Memorandum 433 s. 2020, awarding the OPS to SM for the development of the public market reversing the decision of the “PPP for the People” selection committee to grant the OPS to Robinsons. Shades of probable cause in the future, but that is another story.
Of course, excuses were cited: Failure of Robinsons to submit documents, thus incomplete; SM showed greater advantage and benefits to the community and revenues to the city; and SM although with some deficiencies, had completeness of documents, area to be developed, modality, project duration, financial viability, technical design, economic benefits, and environmental consideration,while the submitted technical designs of Robinsons are not and a show of resistance to comply with the requirements of the P4-SC. (Omitting the fact that Robinsons made a reservation via email to the P4-SC secretariat stating therein they can only submit the detailed engineering design for the market once they are declared as the OPS) and many more reasons.
All in all, it claims a manifest error not only in the evaluation of the P4-SC finding the proposal of Robinsons complete but also in the determination of providing greater advantage and benefits to the community and revenues to the city. If true, however, the proper procedure would have been to return the findings to the PPP committee and city council, but not arrogate upon itself and substitute his decision in the guise of being an approving authority.
Lack of space limits the presentation of the picture but the SM now as the OPS holder expects to finish the negotiation and contract signing by September this year.
True, there is a right to match comparative and superior proposals under the Swiss Challenge procedure but if the deal was void from the beginning, so Steve and other lovers of the palengke, where does it go from here?
Quo Vadis, Baguio City public market as we look into the forthcoming closure of the “heart” of our Baguio? Sigh!