‘Binay farm 350-ha estate’
MANILA, Philippines–Not nine but 350 hectares.
A 350-hectare agricultural estate in Barangay (village) Maligaya, Rosario town, Batangas province, that has a piggery, a flower orchard and a cock farm is currently owned by a corporation whose shareholders are reportedly dummies of Vice President Jejomar Binay, according to former Makati City Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado.
Mercado, a geodetic engineer by profession, said he had proof the farm in Batangas measured 350 hectares and was owned by the Vice President’s family.
He promised to present at the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on Wednesday not only the proof of Binay’s ownership of the property but also of photos of other Binay assets, such as three properties in Tagaytay City.
Mercado, who showed the Inquirer aerial photos of the agriculture estate in Batangas, described the property as a “high-end hacienda.”
The farm has “an air-conditioned piggery and a flower farm that grows orchids of the imported variety,” he said.
It also has a cock farm, a man-made lagoon, a swimming pool and a huge house.
The former vice mayor added that it also had a “maze garden” patterned after the Kew Gardens in London, one of the city’s top attractions.
Mercado said that when he traveled to London in 2007 with the Vice President and Dr. Elenita Binay to attend the 100th Boy Scouts Jamboree, they went to the Kew Gardens in consideration of the Vice President’s wife, who likes orchids and gardens.
Mercado said the Binays visited the Kew Gardens between July 27 and Aug. 8, 2007.
The farm is six times the size of the 58-hectare Rizal Park in Manila and is 14 times bigger than the 25-hectare Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.
Citing records of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mercado told the Inquirer that among the shareholders of Agrifortuna Inc., the registered owner of the estate, were Gerardo S. Limlingan, longtime aide of the Vice President, and Tomas B. Lopez, president of University of Makati.
Mercado earlier declared in a Senate hearing on the allegedly overpriced P2.3-billion Makati City Hall Building II that Limlingan was also a shareholder of Meriras Realty and Development Corp., owner of the 8,877-square-meter property on J.P. Rizal Extension and Sampaguita Street in Makati.
The property was once part of the Philippine Army’s headquarters in Fort Bonifacio.
The shareholders of Meriras are fronts of Binay, according to Mercado.
Mercado on Tuesday said it was he who was on board the helicopter that flew around the Binay property in Batangas on Thursday last week and took photos and video footage of the farm.
“I’m glad the spokesperson of the Vice President admitted that the farm is owned by the Vice President, but the whole farm is 350 hectares and not 9 hectares as they claimed,” Mercado said.
Joey Salgado, Binay’s spokesman and head of his media office, said in a statement issued on Monday that a helicopter flew over a piggery and a flower farm in Rosario, Batangas, which, he said, was formerly owned by the Vice President.
When he won the vice presidency in 2010, Binay divested himself of his interest in JCB Farms, a lessee of the 9-hectare property, according to Salgado.
The spokesman, however, did not disclose who bought the stake of the Vice President.
“We will not be surprised that if in the coming days, video footage or photos of the property will be circulated in media and perhaps even presented in the Senate subcommittee hearing alleging that Vice President Binay is the owner of the said property,” Salgado said.
Mercado said the farm referred to by Salgado as JCB Farms was registered in the SEC as Agrifortuna that was established in 1993.
Based in Davao City
A check with the SEC shows that a certain JCB Development Corp. is based in Davao City.
SEC records of Agrifortuna showed that in 1994 Binay and his wife Elenita of No. 8514 Kaong St. in San Antonio Village, Makati; Ruben Balane of E. Abada Loyola Heights, Quezon City; Victor Gelia of Sgt. Bumatay, Plainview Mandaluyong City; and Nestor D. Alampay Jr. of South Greenpark in Parañaque City were the board of directors of the corporation classified as an agricultural company.
The SEC records also showed that the Binays were no longer incorporators of the agricultural company since 2008.
The current incorporators of Agrifortuna Inc. are:
— Gerardo S. Limlingan of 2125 A. Luna Street, Pasay City
— Tomas B. Lopez of Chateau Verde Condo Gate 2 in Valle Verde 1, Pasig City
— Laureano R. Gregorio Jr. of Quirino Roxas Street in Xavierville Loyola Heights, Quezon City
— Mindanila Barlis of Valle Verde Bliss 1 at E. Rodriguez Avenue in Pasig City
— Mitzi O. Sedillo of Makati Homes on Milkwood Street, Barangay Rizal, Makati City
Agrifortuna has its principal office on the 7th floor, Alpap 1 Building, on Alfaro Street in Salcedo Village, Makati.
The company has assets valued at P29.75 million, based on its 2013 audited financial statements.
Purpose of Agrifortuna
Agrifortuna was set up “to develop, manage, own, lease and operate agricultural lands, farms, pasture lands, ranches, fish pens, foreshore lands and fishing rights or concessions; to engage in the planting and cultivation of coffee, cocoa, pepper, rice corn and other farm products,” said its articles of incorporation.
The corporation can also engage in the raising, breeding and fattening of cattle, goats, sheep, chicken, pigs and similar stocks.
“In general, undertake or carry on all kinds of studies, experiments in the cultivation, storage and trading of all kinds of agricultural livestock, and fishery products and its byproducts in the Philippines or elsewhere,” its incorporation papers showed.
“The high-end hacienda of the Binays show the real character of the couple, who posed as a poor couple,” Mercado said.
The Vice President said he was willing to undergo a lifestyle check amid speculations that he had amassed massive wealth during his stint as mayor.
In his statement, Salgado said Binay went into the piggery business in 1994 as a sole proprietor under the name JCB Farms.
He said the business was duly registered in the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s office in Rosario, Batangas.
Salgado said JCB Farms brought additional income of P44,350,921.99 to Binay from 1994 to 2010 for which he paid taxes amounting to P15.88 million.
On Tuesday night, Salgado said the piggery farm in a leased property in Batangas was operated by Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park.
“Based on records we have gathered, the lessor of the property is Sunchamp Real Estate Development Corp., operator of Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park,” he said in a statement.
Salgado said the Inquirer had featured Sunchamp Park on Sept. 28.
“The PDI article even has an aerial shot of the park and it would most likely be no different from the photos to be peddled by the Vice President’s detractors in the subcommittee hearing,” he said.
He said that Sunchamp had photos of the park on its website and that most likely these would be presented to the Senate by Mercado.
Salgado reiterated that JCB Farms was just a lessee of the 9-hectare property.
“It is unfortunate that legitimate businesses of private individuals are being dragged into this political circus,” he said.
At press time on Tuesday night, Salgado was still inquiring from Binay’s lawyers to whom the Vice President sold his stake in the piggery farm in 2010.–With a report from Christine O. Avendaño
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