Baguio chooses SM over Robinsons for market development

Baguio City government chose the unsolicited proposal of Sy-led SM Prime Holdings for the market development project, rejecting rival Robinsons Land Corporation (RLC).

In an October 14 memorandum, Mayor Benjamin Magalong overturned the recommendation of the Public-Private Partnership for People-Screening Committee (P4-SC), saying that the Sy-led listed firm appears to be more complete and sound.

‘This office finds the unsolicited proposal of SM Prime Holdings more complete and therefore, more beneficial to the city," Magalong said.

SM Prime now holds the original proponent status (OPS) for the project, which gives the Sy firm the right to match competing offers.

The P4-SC had narrowed down the potential proponents to RLC and SM Prime. The market stakeholders, who also staked a bid, were not able to submit requirements on time, according to P4-SC.

RLC said that its project would cost P6.15 billion. Meanwhile, SM Prime's P5.4-billion proposal would include a 7-story building and a parking component that would accommodate 1,900 vehicles.

Magalong also pointed out that RLC would take a much longer time to construct the market buildings at 4 years, while SM pledged only 2.5 years. He also said that SM's proposal was "environmental friendly" given the inclusion of water filtration and waste segregation plants.

“While it is true that there is a sound legal basis – and it is within the authority of the city to undertake the project – and that RLC submitted the complete formal requirements, it is beyond dispute that the company’s proposal is incomplete as to substance, which should have been the primary basis of the evaluation by the (P4-SC),” Magalong said.

Magalong said that RLC was asked to submit all the documents on its plans as agreed upon but was only able to submit conceptual drawings. According to the city government, the Gokongwei-led firm "insisted" on not submitting floor and evaluation plans unless RLC is declared as the original proponent of the project.

The mayor also said that RLC's development plan occupies a bigger area than what was designated by the city for the project.

'Blind eye'

Opposition groups are warning of unrest should such a choice in developing the market be pursued.

The alternative plan promised low-impact development and called for the retaining of the stone market and adaptive reuse of the carinderia and hangar markets. Rainwater collection, grey water recycling, natural daylighting and ventilation, and material recovery facilities were also featured.

Many of the readers said that it was more environmentally-friendly and less intimidating than the other two plans.

They also said that it was more in keeping with the Baguio scenery.

Though denied, the plan made by the market stakeholders was published in a paid ad in two newspapers.

“The mayor has seemed to turn a blind eye to the clamor of his constituents,” Tungtungan ti Umili (TTU) said of the mayor’s approval of the SM proposal.

The awarding of OPS, said TTU, "only goes to show that the good mayor is more keen on favoring the interests of big corporations rather than the citizens he is supposed to serve."

“We call on the umili of Baguio to unite against this impending threat to our public market by reliving the struggles and lessons we saw these past years. We cannot let another corporate giant stake their claim in yet another public space,” the group added. –