Land swap or Aquino OK eyed to keep children’s hospital in QC site
MANILA, Philippines—Senators hope to help resolve by yearend concerns over whether the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC) would remain in its Quezon City location, as they called on President Benigno Aquino III to issue a proclamation donating the 3.7-hectare property to the hospital that caters mostly to the indigent.
In a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, another possible solution was explored: A long-pending land swap between the Department of Health (DOH), which has a property in Sambag, Cebu province, and the National Housing Authority (NHA), which owns the lot in Quezon City that is partially occupied by the hospital.
The lawmakers suggested that the Department of Justice give its legal opinion on whether a 1992 memorandum of agreement on the land swap between the two agencies could finally be consummated. They shared the view that if the DOJ considered the agreement still binding, the PCMC might no longer have to “buy” the property on which it has been located from the NHA.
NHA General Manager Chito Cruz said his agency would abide by either a DOJ opinion favoring the exchange or a presidential proclamation giving the land the hospital.
The housing agency earlier said the PCMC must purchase the land from it for P1.2 billion. An inquiry on the matter was later called by Senate committees on health and demography and on women, family relations and gender equality.
Explaining the need for payment, NHA lawyer Sinforoso Pagunsan explained during the hearing that the precursor of the NHA—the People’s Homesite and Housing Corp.—did not not acquire the property for free.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the health committee, said the goal was to settle the matter of the PCMC property before the end of the year.
“We will talk to Justice Secretary [Leila] De Lima so that before Christmas, there would be a ruling that the PCMC can have the land,” he later told reporters. “Our date is to have a clear solution before Christmas.”
Guingona also said he would like to consider first the DOJ opinion on the land swap as a way to settle the PCMC property question. He pointed out that the NHA had actually taken over the Cebu property of the DOH and distributed portions of it to the beneficiaries of the government’s socialized housing program.
Sen. Loren Legarda has proposed that President Aquino issue a proclamation donating the Quezon City to the PCMC. This was after Cruz disclosed that other government agencies that have been using NHA land paid for their spaces—except for the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA), which was awarded the property through a presidential proclamation.
Legarda suggest that the approach taken in the CTA case be applied to the PCMC, now that a precedent has been set. “So we call on the President to donate the land to Philippine Children’s Medical center,” said added.
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