Local News: Guv Draws the Line on COA Delay: Capitol De-Prioritizing Ayala Deal
The Negros Occidental provincial government is "de-prioritizing" its contracts with Ayala Land on the sale and lease of its 7.7-hectare prime property because the delay of the Commission on Audit (COA) on its review has also affected the basic services that the Provincial Capitol might have delivered to the Negrenses.
"It is about time to draw the line on the delays to the economic benefits (that) the development of the Capitol property project will bring (to) Negros," Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. yesterday said in a press briefing.
"The provincial government has no choice but to de-prioritize the Capitol property development project, and (instead) review all other development projects in order to move on to other opportunities under the NEGROS FIRST (Development) Agenda," he said.
Marañon said that because the Provincial Capitol has focused its efforts on the Ayala contract, it has also sacrificed other priorities that the NEGROS FIRST Development Agenda has promised to address.
Marañon is lamenting on the eight-month delay of COA in deciding on the contracts between the Provincial Capitol and Ayala Land.
On July 15, 2011, the provincial government’s Committee on Awards and Disposal of Real Properties awarded the sale and lease of the 7.7-hectare property to Ayala Land.
Both contracts reportedly amount to about P3.5 billion, while Ayala Land is proposing to develop the said property into a Capitol Civic Center with P6 billion in investments. SM Prime Holdings, the other bidder to the property, is questioning the awarding of the contracts before the courts, and has vowed to pursue the case against the provincial government.
Vincent Patrick Bayhon, external counsel of SM Prime, said his client has won the bidding, thus it should have been awarded the contract instead of Ayala Land.
Marañon said the projects would have fulfilled the objectives of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) to finance the many development projects of Negros Occidental.
Had the projects been promptly started, the proceeds would have been spent to build more classrooms, which the province lacked, and to support more scholars of the Negros Occidental Language and Information Technology Center whose 80 percent of graduates gain employment.
"It has been almost a year since the SP passed on April 13, 2011 Resolution No. 0364 which set into motion the lease, sale, or any arrangements to finance the many development projects and activities of Negros Occidental. Ever since we submitted the award contracts to COA Central Office in July last year, we wondered why they have set so many milestones but would keep on deferring on their decisions and resolutions," he said.
Last week, the COA Commission Proper sent a technical team from their Technical Services Office to evaluate and re-appraise the property, and to submit to the CP for another deliberation.
Marañon is also questioning the creation of the technical team nine months after they submitted the awards contracts to COA, saying the Commission has deliberately delayed the process.
Marañon said the bidding process was done lawfully and the contracts were above-board. He said his decision even earned the support of the Bacolod City Council and major business groups in this province.
"We have received favorable legal opinions and multi-sectoral support because this is a good project that will dramatically perk up our provincial economy, boost the province’s revenues and tax earnings, generate jobs and provide impetus to more badly needed infrastructure and public utilities development under our three-year strategic NEGROS FIRST Development Plan which ends soon in 2013," he said.
Marañon said projects such as these are meant to encourage investors, whether local or foreign, to come to Negros to help its economy and its people.
But such delays and legal positioning are not in anyone’s best interest, he said, adding that "We are always thinking of Negros first, and these delays are damaging to Negros.
Marañon added: "At this juncture, we leave it up to all parties involved to decide for themselves on what their roles will be in this project." *