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BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Robinsons Land Corporation and SM Prime Holdings Incorporated have presented to the city government their respective proposals to redevelop the Baguio City Market.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong and Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan were among those who witnessed the presentation of the general plans of the two companies on February 20.
Magalong said the offers would be evaluated by the city’s Public-Private Partnership for the Public-Private Partnership for the People (P4) selection committee subject to PPP rules.
He also said that two more big companies have informed the city government of their intention to present proposals in the coming days for the multibillion-peso project envisioned as the city’s show window.
After he was elected as mayor last year, Magalong had said that he would prioritize the city’s “heirlooms” in his first year, including modernizing the Baguio public market, which had been left behind compared to other major public markets in the Northern Philippines.
Market vendors, civil society groups, and concerned citizens in this city are opposed to the participation of big business in the redevelopment of the iconic Baguio market.
Baguio Markets Vendors Association President Zosimo Abratique urged the people of Baguio to support them in their bid to be tapped for the market’s redevelopment.
“We will not take this sitting down. We are already consolidating the forces of the market vendors. We are already finalizing the consortium of cooperatives for the development of the market which has combined assets of P1 billion,” Abratique said.
“We hope we can rally Baguio folks behind us. Government regulations are giving us a hard time instead of leveling the playing field with these [big corporations],” he added.
Tongtongan ti Umili, an umbrella of Baguio-based activist groups, denounced the bidding as it launched its online battle under #SaveBaguioMarket.
“The current scheme which entrusts the development of public facilities to a public-private partnership will only do more harm than good. While poor people will pay the price of privatization, the enormous cost of profit will go straight into the pockets of big businesses who are in a joint venture with the national and local government,” Tongtongan said.
“The Baguio City local government’s blind drive to privatize its market, roads, even public toilets, underscores the intense mayhem inflicted by favored corporate interests against the general public welfare. More than violating the rights of vendors to a decent livelihood, consumers will also be burdened through higher prices of basic commodities should this move push through,” it added.
Guia Limpin, an active voice in development issues of the city, said the public market “belongs to the people of Baguio, certainly not to corporate greed.”
‘No one will be left out’
Market vendor Gregorio Aberi expressed concern about the fate of vendors like him if the market is redeveloped by a mall operator.
“Giving the bid to big-time malls will deprive the ordinary market vendors the right to earn an honest living,” Aberi said.
Adelaida Lim, head of the Baguio Creative Cities Council, proposed “the market as a social enterprise.”
“Surely, the citizens of Baguio could collectively raise the capital needed to operate or manage the market. But hey, providing adequate public markets is one of the main functions of the LGU. It’s their job so turning it over to outsider enterprises reflects on their inadequacy and laziness. It’s the betrayal of their mandate,” Lim said.
Magalong, however, assured vendors that they would not be left out in the PPP venture.
He said city’s topmost consideration is the interest of the market vendors as he assured them that the vendors’ cooperative would not be left out in the in PPP joint venture, whichever company may be chosen.
Magalong emphasized that the city intends to speed up the process without resorting to shortcuts in the process to ensure that only the best offer will be selected at the shortest time possible.
He also reiterated that he will not tolerate bribery in the selection of projects.
Recently, a redevelopment plan was presented by the Technical Working Group headed by Councilor Mylen Yaranon. The architectural design was approved by the city council through Resolution No. 39-2020.
The design was for a 7-story structure including two underground floors to house the vendors with provisions for parking, sewage treatment plant, materials recovery facility, and open space comprising 30% of the area for alleys and parks.
The city’s trading area should have been developed back in 1995 but the design-build-lease contract forged by the city government with the Uniwide Sales Realty And Resources Corporation was halted and held hostage for more than 20 years by lawsuits filed by opposing vendors’ groups.
Although the city and Uniwide won the cases, the project failed to take off due to Uniwide’s insolvency problem. – Rappler.com