Pasay dads backtrack on SM-led reclamation
In a complete turnaround, the Pasay City council withdrew its support from a recently approved agreement allowing SM Land Inc. (SMLI) to reclaim and develop 300 hectares on Manila Bay for P54.5 billion.
The council on Wednesday recalled three earlier resolutions that favored SMLI’s unsolicited proposal and the joint venture agreement that was later forged between the company and the city government led by Mayor Antonino Calixto.
The body cited “deficiencies in the process” that “deprived information” and opportunity for the other bidders, Councilor Allan Panaligan, committee chair on land use, told the Inquirer in a phone interview.
Panaligan said this view was conveyed in Resolution No. 3059, which was passed on a unanimous vote during the morning session.
It recalled Resolution No. 3040 (approved Nov. 4) allowing the Public-Private Partnership-Selection Committee (PPP-SC) to proceed with the scheduled submission and opening of counter-proposals for the reclamation that day; Resolution No. 3046 (approved Nov. 14) authorizing Calixto to sign the joint venture agreement with SMLI; and Resolution No. 3049 (Nov. 18) which ratified the signed agreement.
Panaligan said the council wanted to correct “flaws” as pointed out by the challengers Ayala Land Inc. and S&P Construction Technology in a session last week.
“We found so many deficiencies in the process. We have to correct this to prevent [legal] cases being filed [against the city government] because of the flaws,” he said.
According to Panaligan, Ayala and S&P raised “substantial” concerns, such as being given bidding forms with “incomplete terms of reference.” “How can you compete in a bid without complete details?” he said.
The two companies earlier asked for an extension of the deadline for the submission of counterproposals, citing the guidelines set by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) on joint ventures.
Panaligan also noted that the documents submitted by city executives to the council offered insufficient details about the reclamation plan. Being the chair of the committee on land use, he should have been part of the PPP-SC but he was never invited.
Officials of SMLI and Ayala Land did not immediately respond to Inquirer requests for comment late Wednesday.
In a text message to reporters, city legal officer and PPP-SC vice chair Severo Madrona maintained that despite this belated opposition from the council, the joint venture agreement, which was already submitted to the Philippine Reclamation Authority for approval, “is still valid and subsisting.”
He cited “infirmities in Resolution No. 3059” and warned that “the councilors are just exposing themselves to possible liabilities.”
“The rights of SM Land Inc. are violated in the one-sided public hearings. SM Land Inc. was never invited,” Madrona pointed out.
In an earlier statement in response to the arguments raised by the other bidders, Madrona said the PPP-SC was guided by a 2012 legal opinion from the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which allows a local government unit to implement guidelines pertaining to joint venture agreements “based on its own determination of appropriate rules.”
He said the committee could not extend the 30-day period for the submission of counterproposals since “it would be tantamount to changing the rules in midstream and would expose the city to charges of violating or bending the rules to favor a particular company.”
In an interview last week, Madrona noted how the council suddenly changed its position on the SMLI bid after unanimously passing resolutions in its favor last month.
Panaligan said the council at this point “(is) waiting for the action of the mayor” to correct the bidding procedure since the reclamation project had yet to be implemented.
“We are actually one with him (Calixto) in this project since it is for the city. It’s a big chunk of land for future developments. But we are being fair: We have to give a chance for the points raised by Ayala and S&P,” Panaligan said. “Let us make it a competitive bidding process, so we will have a better reclamation project.”
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