Pasay dads OK SM reclamation deal again
It’s on, it’s off, and now it’s on again.
The Pasay City Council voted on Monday to proceed with the controversial P54.5-billion reclamation project with the group of tycoon Henry Sy, reversing its previous resolution against the awarding of the project to the country’s largest conglomerate.
In an en banc session Monday, the council voted 8-5 in favor of continuing the project through a joint venture agreement (JVA) between SM Land Inc. (SMLI) and the local government under Mayor Antonino Calixto. This was two weeks after it unanimously approved a resolution withdrawing its earlier endorsement of the project.
The 300-hectare project was awarded to SMLI in late November in the absence of any counterproposal from rival companies, which later questioned the selection process.
In a text message, Severo Madrona, Pasay City legal officer and vice chair of the city’s Public-Private Partnership Selection Committee (PPP-SC), confirmed the council’s 8-5 decision favoring the JVA. “Yes, it is true,” he said.
A copy of the new resolution obtained by the Inquirer bore the signatures of District 1 Councilors Mary Grace Santos, Alberto Alvina and Lexter Ibay, and District 2 Councilors Allan Panaligan, Aileen Padua-Lopez, Ian Vendivel, Reynaldo Padua, and ex-officio council member and Liga ng mga Barangay head Antonia Cuneta.
Those who did not sign were District 1 Councilors Jennifer Roxas, Richard Advincula and Eduardo Advincula, and District 2 Councilors Arnel Arceo and Arvin Tolentino.
The resolution called for the reclamation to proceed, and for the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and the National Economic and Development Authority to “continue processing the necessary documents relative to the implementation of the said project.”
It repealed a Dec. 4 resolution which recalled the council’s support for the JVA after two other interested bidders, Ayala Land Inc. and S&P Construction Technology, raised complaints.
The project involves the reclamation and development of foreshore and offshore areas on Manila Bay located in the western part of the city. Based on the deal, SM will undertake and fully finance the project, including the cost of the necessary permits, clearances and other government requirements.
The city is not expected to incur any expense, contributing only its authority, rights and privileges to undertake reclamation within its jurisdiction. The local government and PRA will get at least 153 ha or 51 percent of the area to be reclaimed, including roads and open spaces. The project is to be completed within seven years from the city’s issuance of a notice to proceed.
But those who voted against the new resolution expressed concern over the potential problems the city might face.
Tolentino, the minority floor leader, said the previous resolution recalling the awarding of the project to SMLI was a way to protect the council and the executive branch from legal issues arising from the alleged irregularities in the bidding process.
Tolentino reminded his colleagues about the letter the council sent to Mayor Calixto asking him to seek the legal opinions of the justice and interior departments on awarding reclamation projects.
Richard Advincula, the majority floor leader, also said the PRA may still issue a cease and desist order if the alleged irregularities are later proven. Advincula also noted that he did not sign in support of the project’s inclusion in the day’s agenda.
PPP-SC earlier maintained that appropriate laws and regulations were followed in connection with SMLI’s unsolicited proposal, which was subjected to the “Swiss challenge” to allow competitors to match it.
As to complaints that the other companies were given a very limited time to submit counterproposals, Madrona said the committee could not unilaterally extend the 30-day deadline since it would be tantamount to changing the rules in midstream and expose the city to charges of violating or bending the rules to favor a particular company.