BAGUIO CITY—A private company will begin replacing the 105-year-old Baguio market with a modern commercial building after the May elections, following an 18-year delay due to a legal challenge.
Leticia Clemente, city budget and investments officer, said no legal barrier stood in the way of Uniwide Sales and Realty Corp., whose 1995 develop-build-lease (DBL) contract to modernize the market had been entangled in a lawsuit that remained unresolved despite a 2008 Baguio regional trial court (RTC) ruling that validated its transaction with the city government.
In December last year, the Court of Appeals (CA) upheld the lower court ruling, paving the way for Uniwide to proceed with its contract.
Lawyers of a Baguio vendors’ group, which questioned the constitutionality of a DBL scheme in 1995, elevated the matter to the Supreme Court.
However, with the absence of an injunction, Clemente said nothing stopped the developer from putting up a P1.7-billion, seven-story commercial building that would accommodate market vendors.
The design of Uniwide’s proposed commercial complex, done in the 1990s, also has provisions for a rooftop parking area that is accessible through a flyover bridge, which will connect to a side street in downtown Baguio.
“While there’s no injunction issued by the appellate court, [the developer] can start anytime we wish [after May 13],” Clemente told the Inquirer.
“We have to revisit the plan and the terms and contract, and prepare the people who will be affected [by the project by issuing] notices,” she said.
In 1995, the government enacted a city ordinance, which empowered the city government to bid out a market improvement project under the build-operate-transfer (BOT) law.
The market development contract was supposed to improve 61,000 square meters of prime real estate owned by the government.
Uniwide won the development contract but vendors with existing leases at the market asked the court to nullify the deal, saying the process used a DBL process that was not specified in the BOT law.
The Baguio RTC ruled in June 2008 that the DBL contract won by Uniwide was constitutional, a decision affirmed last year by the CA.
Many of the vendors’ leaders, who sued to stop the Uniwide contract, have since passed away.
But a Baguio conservation group, composed of old-time residents, has pushed the idea of maintaining a single-story market building to preserve its historical value to the summer capital.
Clemente said the city government had been coordinating with Uniwide about its plans. “If you want to be competitive with neighboring towns and urbanized cities, we should upgrade our facilities [to suit the needs of] local and foreign tourists because … we profess to be a prime tourist destination,” she said. Desiree Caluza, Inquirer Northern Luzon