CEBU CITY, Philippines – A consortium between SM Investments and the Ayala Corporation broke ground on its over 45-hectare project at the South Road Properties in Cebu City on Wednesday, January 29.
The project is the subject of a court case filed by former city mayor Tomas Osmeña, who sued several city officials involved in the sale, including current Mayor Edgar Labella, his Vice Mayor Michael Rama, and other city councilors.
At the time of the sale, Rama was mayor and Labella was vice mayor. Osmeña alleges that the bid was not done properly and the lot was sold at under market value. The property was sold for about P17 billion in 2015 to the SM-Ayala consortium. (READ: Osmeña files suit vs Cebu City government, real estate conglomerates over SRP deal)
Cebu Holdings Incorporated, an Ayala subsidiary, represented Ayala Land at the groundbreaking.
Labella spoke about the conflict during the time he was presiding officer of the city council.
“We were actually outnumbered that time. The opposition was the majority. But there were well-meaning members of the city council who set aside partisan posturings because they believe in the project, and I call them the unsung heroes, aside of course, from the other members of the city council,” Labella said.
Despite the lawsuit, the development plans will move ahead since there has not been a temporary restraining order (TRO) issued on the property.
“Now, we look backward and forward. We look backward with overflowing gratitude to these people and we look forward with great hope and exciting expectation for this project,” Labella said.
The first-term mayor expects that the project would generate over P316 billion in investments and two million direct and indirect jobs in Cebu City.
Included in the project is a 16,000-capacity convention center and a one-hectare park.
Labella said, over time the project would contribute P22 billion to the city’s revenues through permits, taxes, and other regulatory fees.
“It is one of the thrusts of our administration that we should decrease the poverty level in the city of Cebu. It is a sad reality that, up until now, after so many years, our country, including this city, is facing a very serious political and social imbalance,” he said.
According to the city government, 70% of the project will be for commercial space, while 30% will be residential.
The planned Bus Rapid Transit project was also realigned to run through the SRP. – Rappler.com