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Court asked to revoke sale of Paskuhan Village

/ 06:35 AM March 23, 2018

CHRISTMAS SPIRIT GONE Paskuhan in the City of San Fernando, once described as the only Christmas Village in Asia, is now a picture of decay and neglect. —TONETTE T. OREJAS

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The city government and the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) this week asked a local court to revoke the 2015 sale of the deteriorating Paskuhan Village here to a developer owned by a mall giant.

The House committee on good government and public accountability investigated the sale to Premier Central Inc. (PCI) by Paskuhan’s owner, the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), and concluded that it should be nullified for violating the tourism code.

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Complaint

Assistant Solicitor General Joseph Guevarra, Mayor Edwin Santiago, city legal officer Atlee Viray and Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. filed the 16-page complaint in the Regional Trial Court here on Tuesday, citing the recommendations of a House committee report in October last year. House Resolution No. 654 filed by Gonzales prompted the investigation.

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Tieza did not act on the committee’s recommendations, so the OSG went to court, Guevarra said.

The court was also asked to stop PCI, a subsidiary of SM Prime Holdings Corp., from registering the two Paskuhan lots in its name.

Reached by the Inquirer, PCI said it would issue a statement. The firm, however, had not released a statement as of Thursday.

The officials asked the court to prohibit Tieza from selling the properties to other parties. Tieza, under then general manager Mark Lapid, sold the lots in 2015 for P939.6 million.

Santiago said they filed the lawsuit “in defense of our local heritage.”

The sale, the OSG and the city government said, was void from the start since Paskuhan, also known as the Philippine Christmas Village and the first of its kind in Asia, is a cultural treasure that should be preserved according to the Tourism Act of 2009 (Republic Act No. 9593).

They said the late Jesus Lazatin agreed to sell the properties—where Paskuhan stands—to Tieza’s precursor, the Philippine Tourism Authority, because the government “intended to set up a world-class cultural, historical and commercial center.”

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Right of first refusal

According to them, the City of San Fernando’s right of first refusal was violated when it was not asked on the sale of Paskuhan.

Last year, Santiago filed notices of adverse claims on the land titles covering Paskuhan. Although the Paskuhan sale went through a public bidding, the OSG and the city government said the process violated the Commission on Audit (COA) circulars such as the required presence of a COA auditor.

COA did not recommend the sale in 2013 and instead advised Tieza to rehabilitate Paskuhan, privatize it or offer it for long-term lease. COA also suggested that Paskuhan operations could be devolved to the city government. —TONETTE OREJAS

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TAGS: Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), Paskuhan Village, revoke sale
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