June 14, 2024

■  Jane B. Cadalig 

The city council has asked the City Treasurer’s Office (CTO) to suspend the collection of rent from stall owners at Wright Park while the basis of the imposition is being clarified.

The request came after City Treasurer Alex Cabarrubias said his office collects fees using as a basis a memorandum of agreement between the City Environment and Parks Management Office, and the stallholders.

Cabarrubias was invited to the council to shed light on a 2015 resolution passed by the Baguio City Market Authority (BCMA) and Baguio City Parks Management Committee (BCPMC) that authorized the collection of parking and other fees at Wright Park and Botanical Garden.

The resolution was signed by former mayor Mauricio Domogan with a note that it should be subject to confirmation by the city council.

Cabarrubias admitted CTO did not implement the collection of parking fees at Wright Park because the Pony Boys’ group opposed and also because the collection of parking fees was later turned over to the barangay.

He said what the CTO is currently collecting is the monthly rental from stall owners, which is assessed at P150 per square meter.

He said the basis of the collection is a 2018 agreement signed between the Cepmo and entrepreneurs at Botanical Garden, which was also adopted at Wright Park.

Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda raised the concern of stallholders who are being asked to pay back rentals through a demand letter issued in January.

She cited the case of one stall owner who is being asked to pay more than P244,000.

Cabarrubias said the back rental was computed based on the P150 per square meter a month that had not been paid since 2018, including surcharges.

He said the city should pursue the collection of rentals at Wright Park to be fair to other entrepreneurs in other parks who are also paying their monthly rentals.

He, however, acceded to the request for the office to suspend the collection, while the council is clarifying with the Cepmo the basis of the contract that imposed the P150 per sqm rental at Botanical.

Councilor Peter Fianza said even if the agreement or the joint resolution of the BCMA and BCPMC were confirmed by the council, such action does not justify the collection of fees at the parks.

“It should be through an ordinance,” he said.

The council asked the City Legal Office’s opinion on the matter as it also invited the Cepmo in its next session to clarify and provide members copies of the contract.