February 23, 2024

■  Jane B. Cadalig 

Will Republic Act 11966, or the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Code that became effective in December last year stall the implementation of Baguio City’s seven multi-million unsolicited project proposals?

As far as the City Legal Office is concerned, the new law will not stop the implementation of PPP projects that were already granted the original proponent status (OPS).

Appearing before the city council special session on Jan. 4, City Legal Officer Althea Alberto told the members that following the interim guidelines of the PPP Code that became effective on Dec. 23, 2023, five of the seven PPP projects that were accommodated by the city will proceed and only two will have to comply with the provision that unsolicited project proposals will first have to undergo negotiations before these are granted an OPS.

The PPP Code, which repealed Baguio’s Public-Private Partnership for the People Initiative (P4) Ordinance, provides that local unsolicited proposals should first be submitted to the PPP Center, which will check if the required information is complete before these are endorsed to the local government unit that will implement the projects.

The P4 Ordinance was the basis of the city government in accommodating seven unsolicited project proposals – redevelopment of the Baguio public market; intermodal terminal project; elevated monorail and electric bus system; development and improvement of the city-owned Asin hydro power plants in Tuba, Benguet; smart urban mobility project; central terminal; and the city’s housing project, also in Tuba.

Among other things, the law reversed the process under the P4 Ordinance as it provides that for unsolicited proposals, the LGU should conduct the negotiations first before an OPS is granted and the proposal must be submitted to the legislative body for approval.

Under the repealed P4 Ordinance, the OPS is granted first before the negotiations then eventually the Swiss Challenge.

Alberto said the PPP Code will not stop the implementation of the five PPP projects that were already granted OPS status – redevelopment of the Baguio public market; intermodal terminal project; elevated monorail and electric bus system; development and improvement of the city-owned Asin hydro power plants in Tuba, Benguet; and the smart urban mobility project.

She said since the public market redevelopment project was already issued an OPS and with a certification of successful negotiation, the city will just have to reconfirm the OPS, endorse the project to the City Development Council (CDC) for verification and checking of the feasibility study, and submit the same to the city council for approval.

The public market redevelopment, worth P4.5 billion, was awarded to SM Prime Holdings, Inc.

Alberto said the same process will be followed for the P1.025B intermodal terminal project, which was awarded to Megawide Construction Corporation. The certification of successful negotiation for the project was due for signing last week, according to Alberto.

The three projects that were granted OPS, but are under negotiations are the P11.6B elevated monorail and electric bus system awarded to Metro Renewable Transport Solutions, Inc.; the P810 million redevelopment of Asin hydros awarded to Repower Energy Corporation; and the P2.53B smart urban mobility project awarded to Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation.

Alberto said since the city has not yet proceeded with the Comparative Challenge, which replaced the Swiss Challenge for the five projects, these will be submitted for the approval of the city council after the reconfirmation of the OPS and verification by the CDC.

For the two projects – the central terminal and the socialized housing in Tuba, Alberto said the provision of the PPP Code will apply, in which the proposals will have to undergo negotiations first before the OPS is granted, then it will be endorsed to the CDC for verification and submitted for approval by the council.

But while the PPP Code is specific about what will happen to the P4 Ordinance and is clear that unsolicited proposals should first undergo negotiations before the OPS is conferred, Councilor Peter Fianza raised the concern on how the city government should go about the negotiation when the same law requires that the local legislative body should first set the parameters, terms, and conditions (PTC) of the negotiation to be undertaken before the conferment of an OPS.

The law also provides the PTC should be endorsed by the CDC and must be subject to a series of public consultation.

“The law provides that before an OPS is conferred, negotiations must first be done, but it also requires that the PTC of the negotiations must first be set by the council. How should we go about this?” he said.

Fianza said the council needs a clarification about this procedure, among other requirements contained on the interim guidelines, so that the members will be guided properly on their actions regarding these projects.

To be guided more on the course of action they would take on the PPP projects, the council asked the CLO or the City Administrator’s Office to provide them a detailed report on the status of the seven PPP projects to include 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.

“We need these details because we need to have a reckoning period,” Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda said, adding the PPP Code sets a timeline to be followed by LGUs in relation to their actions on PPP proposals.

The interim guidelines of the PPP Code, which was approved also on Dec. 23, 2023, will be effective until such time the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law are out.