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Manila Seedling Bank reopens

But only until Dec. 31 to let tenants hold clearance sale
/ 02:16 AM December 13, 2013

Days after it shut down the Manila Seedling Bank at the corner of Edsa and Quezon Avenue, the Quezon City government on Thursday announced it would keep the 7-hectare compound open until the end of the year to allow tenants to hold a clearance sale.

The concession, however, is conditional: Vendors must apply for the necessary permits before Dec. 31.

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“The mayor agreed to reopen the compound until Dec. 31 so that store owners can have their clearing-out or closing-out sale on the condition that they secure a demolition permit and apply for retirement or transfer of business before the end of this year,” City Administrator Victor Endriga told the Inquirer.

Despite the concession, some 70 tenants who were evicted after the compound was shut down on Monday staged a rally yesterday to call for the preservation of the “only green space” in Quezon City as well as a moratorium on the construction of malls in the area.

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Tenants appeal to mayor

Endriga told the Inquirer that several tenants of the Manila Seedling Bank had asked Mayor Herbert Bautista to let them hold a clearing-out sale until the end of the year. They also appealed that they be given three more months “on a case-by-case basis” to vacate the compound in addition to financial assistance for the demolition of their stalls.

“It was on a ‘case-by-case basis’ because while there are stalls that are easy to demolish,  there are those which are intended to be permanent and are more difficult to dismantle,” he added.

 

No financial aid

But the request for financial assistance was turned down by Bautista as he maintained that the tenants should shoulder the cost of tearing down their own stalls, Endriga said.

The tenants who attended yesterday’s protest, however, told the Inquirer that they were not consulted on these matters, and that only the “big-time” tenants or those whose businesses occupy at least 2,000 square meters in the compound had spoken to City Hall officials.

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Activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes said it was the small-time tenants or those with a business area of only 200-sq m that made up the majority of stall holders in the compound.

He spearheaded the march-run cum protest started from the Manila Seedling Bank compound up to Trinoma Mall. The protesters then went on to Quezon City Hall where they were met by a fire truck and several policemen.

Reyes told the Inquirer that they wanted to speak to Bautista or Endriga for the “very urgent request” of saving the Manila Seedling Bank as one of the few remaining “open and green” spaces in the city but were not given the chance.

The protest also marked the launch of NAMaN or the Not Another Mall Now Movement which asked President Aquino to declare a moratorium on the construction and development of malls.

According to Reyes: “Quezon City is slowly being eaten up by malls. We have enough malls in Metro Manila… There has to be a stop to all this. I am not saying that malls are evil but too many of them is not going to help small and medium entrepreneurs.”

He said they believed that the shutdown and takeover by the Quezon City government of the Manila Seedling Bank compound was meant to get the tenants out of the area to pave the way for the construction of another mall or high-rise building.

“They said the property has already been sold to a large developer,” Reyes told the Inquirer.

 

No development plans yet

But Endriga denied that the city has sold the property or that there were already plans for the development of the 7-hectare property. He said that the city government has yet to meet with the National Housing Authority (NHA) about the disposition of the property.

On Monday, the Quezon City government closed down the compound, evicting some 80 businesses in the area for operating without permits.

The takeover was prompted by Manila Seedling Bank Foundation Inc.’s failure to pay P57.208 million in real estate taxes to the city government from 2001 to 2011.

The city’s business permits and licensing office also issued last week 82 cease-and-desist orders to stall owners and tenants of the compound after they failed to secure the necessary permits from the mayor’s office and building official as required under the National Building Code.

Transfer to new site

A space at the Quezon Memorial Circle was also offered to the tenants. Fourteen of them have since transferred to the new site called the Quezon City Circle Garden, which was described as more spacious and conducive to business.

In July last year, the Quezon City government took control of the compound occupied by the foundation for its nonpayment of real property taxes. There were appeals but the  Supreme Court ruled that although the compound was owned by the NHA, the foundation was not exempted from tax payments since the exemption it had been granted was withdrawn when the 1991 Local Government Code took effect.

There have been two attempts to auction off the property but with no buyer, it was automatically forfeited in favor of the city government.

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TAGS: Edsa, Manila Seedling Bank, NAMaN, Not Another Mall Now Movement, Quezon Avenue, Quezon City, Victor Endriga
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