July 21, 2024

It looks like the city government of Baguio will pursue development of the market with SM as the original proponent status (OPS) holder. This is in spite of the lingering question on the action of Mayor Benjie Magalong in giving SM the OPS through the recommendation of his own ad hoc committee and not by the Public-Private Partnership for the People Selection Committee (P4SC) as provided for under the PPP Ordinance.
In the recently-issued opinion of the Public-Private Partnership Center, only the P4SC can recommend to the mayor which company may be awarded the OPS since the ad hoc committee is not authorized to do so.
Be it remembered that the P4SC recommended to the mayor that the OPS should be awarded to Robinsons. Had P4SC recommended the two, the mayor could have all the right to create an ad hoc committee to study the proposals of Robinsons and SM and recommend to the mayor as to which corporation the coveted OPS shall be given.
From reports, the mayor merely dismissed as “opinion” the analysis of the PPP Center – a government instrumentality that has the expertise on the matter. Sources said the mayor allegedly claimed that the PPP Center’s opinion is based on the wrong information provided by some members of the city council.
Apparently stung by the mayor’s comment, Councilor MylenYaranon said the documents submitted to the PPP Center were provided by the P4SC. She asked: “How can documents signed by him (the mayor) be (sic) a misinformation? Everything that was submitted to the PPP Center were based on facts.”
The negotiation by the city and SM had started and the former has invited some organizations and well-known Baguio personalities to witness the negotiation for purposes of transparency. However, the participants were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement that they are not supposed to discuss or reveal what transpired in the negotiation. Where is transparency there? In fact, at the later stages of the negotiation, it is supposed to be closed-door. We are now confused about the meaning of open and transparent. Sikayo ngay?
The city plans to hold a dialogue with officials of the PPP Center to clear the issue, yet it continues to negotiate with SM. In fact, the city and SM will conduct a joint survey to determine the area of the public market to be developed (30,400 square meters or 29,000m2), as if SM is now assured to get the contract to develop the prime jewel of Baguio.
We sense a litigation coming, even as the Baguio Market Vendors Association is poised to submit the issue to a people’s initiative that will give time for the city and its people to consider other alternative modes of development for the market.
This brings us back to our conviction that a public market should be open. Many progressive cities give special attention to their public markets because they showcase the history, cultural diversity, and heritage of the place and its people. Tourists and visitors always remember Baguio because of their pleasant experience in the public market. I should know, being a newsboy-cum-tourist guide in my childhood days.
We also believe the city and its people can finance a low-impact development for the market. There are artists and architects in our midst who know the Baguio spirit and can design it.
About the financing, come on Baguio folk, let us use our coconuts and dig into the Local Government Code on how we can raise the money. Let us not depend on financiers who can use the PPP Law to their own advantage. After all, that is what they are good at – making more money. (DEL CLARAVALL)