March 5, 2024

■  Jane B. Cadalig 

The fate of the market redevelopment and other proposals issued with original proponent status (OPS) remains hanging in the balance.

This is despite the reconstitution of a committee tasked to continue the negotiation process for the seven projects accepted by the city government under a public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.

The PPP Center also wants the city government to furnish them with copies of the PPP proposals for its appreciation.

After a session with officials of the PPP Center where the city council was left with more questions than answers, it was agreed for the committee on laws chaired by Councilor Peter Fianza to collate the questions for submission to the City Legal Office, which was tasked to ask the same to the PPP Center to better guide the council.

PPP Center Legal Officer Rochelle Sarsosa and Jhoel Jorda from the Project Development Services told the city council they needed to be furnished copies of the proposals so they could come up with an opinion to better assist the city government.

“We are only basing our answers on the information being given about the projects you are asking. We need to see the documents so we can formulate our opinions about your questions,” Sarsosa said. 

City Administrator Bonifacio Dela Peña and City Legal Officer Althea Alberto said the documents for all seven PPP project proposals are being prepared for submission to the PPP Center before the end of January.

“We will submit the documents. We just need more time because these are voluminous,” Alberto said. 

Dela Peña, who chairs the interim negotiation team, said he hopes the negotiations they had with SM Prime Holdings, Inc., which was issued the OPS status, will not be disregarded, even as the city council desires to be clarified more on how to proceed with the unsolicited proposals accepted by the city after the passage of the PPP Code on Dec. 23, 2023.

He reiterated the interim guidelines issued by the PPP Governing Board recognize the validity of all OPS that were granted before the new law was passed, such as the OPS awarded to SM Prime Holdings for the public market redevelopment project.

Sources said Dela Peña also said that SM Prime Holdings has complied and completed the documents required by the old PPP committee, which was one of the grounds for the issuance of an OPS.

The certificate of successful negotiation for the market redevelopment with SM Prime was already signed.

The interim guidelines were issued to serve as a reference for PPP projects in the meantime that the implementing rules and regulations of the PPP Code are being crafted.

Dela Peña, who was also the head of the old committee that negotiated with SM Prime, said they were working to commence the renegotiation as soon as possible since the law provides that negotiations for proposals should be held within 60 days after the passage of the PPP Code.

Alberto said this was the primary reason Mayor Benjamin Magalong reconstituted the interim negotiating panel to continue the processes that were started for the seven unsolicited proposals.

She said a separate negotiating committee will be created for new unsolicited proposals.

In earlier sessions where the CLO was invited, it was explained the interim guidelines give local government units the option to revoke the OPS granted to a proponent or conduct renegotiations and reconfirmation of the OPS status.

In the case of the market redevelopment, the executive department opted for the renegotiation and reconfirmation of the OPS, but it will now be submitted to the City Development Council and the city council for approval.

The council has earlier asked the CLO to provide them with a detailed report on the status of the seven PPP projects including the specific dates when the OPS was granted, when the negotiations were successfully concluded, when the projects were accepted, and the actions to be undertaken relative to the proposals.

This was presented during the Jan. 22 session, which was also for the benefit of the PPP Center representatives.

To provide answers to every question from each member of the council and to satisfy the request of the PPP Center to be furnished with the complete documents, the legislative body agreed to collate all the questions for better appreciation by the PPP Center and for the latter to base its opinions on. – Jane B. Cadalig