BAGUIO CITY – They articulated separately but sang the same tune, save for one.
Development of the Athletic Bowl; sprucing up of Burnham Park; renovation of the Baguio Convention Center (BCC); purchase of the ‘Tree Park’ near BCC… name it, P652-million is enough to answer for ‘em all.
Thus, declared members of the City Finance Committee (CFC) last week as they joined city legal officer (CLO) Melchor Rabanes’ formula leading the way out of Baguio ’s road to perdition, starting with the appropriation of P13-million in court fees.
The formula: file a collection suit against the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) and Camp John Hay Development Corporation (CJHDevCo) to collect the city’s P652-million in rent shares from the operation of the bourgeoisie tourism estate.
City administrator Peter Fianza, treasurer Thelma Manois, accountant Antonio Tabin, assessor Augustus Medina, and planning coordinator Arturo Orig welcomed the CLOs legal gambit.
The lone cynic: city budget officer Leticia Clemente.
Earlier, Rabanes took the bull by its horns issuing a January 22 city demand to BCDA for payment of P652.6-millions in lease shares from the development of Camp John Hay (CJH).
This, following Resolutions 410-2009 and 513-2009, approved by the council and mayor Reinaldo Bautista late last year. The twin measures authorized the CLO to demand payment and to commence legal action in case BCDA defaults.
Manois said, “The amount if paid in full is enough to solve all city woes… I would go for collection for the good of the city.”
She bared a team of fiscal managers went down to Manila last December to reconcile apparently conflicting computation formulas between the city and BCDA.
However, the city was not apprised of the BCDA-CJHDevCo contracts amending the original agreement approved by the city through Resolution 362-1994 upon which the city’s computation of its 25-percent lease shares are based.
Resolution 362-1994 likewise laid down 19-conditionalities in the formulation by BCDA of the master plan for John Hay.
Manaois added, “As a result of BCDA’s failure to give a copy of the revised lease agreement, we were not able to reach a compromise vis-à-vis the computation.”
“We have not heard from them ‘til now.”
Rabanes maintains, with the 19-conditionalities in place, BCDA and CJHDevCo endowed the city vested rights over a 25-percent of the lease actually paid by CJHDevCo to BCDA which both parties cannot just amend without city blessings.
It could be remembered in a June 30, 2009 letter by CJHDevCo chief operating officer Alfredo Yniguez III to Bautista and the city council claimed CJHDevCo was never remiss on its remittances to BCDA.
The CLO maintained, CJHDevCo would not ask for debt restructuring if it were capable of remitting promptly to BCDA.
Manaois revealed, after September 2009, CJHDevCo has not been able to remit to BCDA, bolstering Rabanes’ observations.
Fianza, Tabin, Orig, and Medina meanwhile said they have Rabanes’ declaring a collection suit is a “long time coming.” For them, the city has done enough diplomacy.
The claimed the amount should be collected by all means.
Tabin said, “It can lead to impact projects like purchase of lots outside the central business district for northbound and southbound vehicles.”
For Orig garbage and barangay projects listed by the Local Development Council may finally realize sooner.
“The legal officer is our acknowledged expert… I believe in him,” he added.
Medina bolstered Tabin and Orig’s claims adding, “A P13-million filing fee as against the possibility of collecting P652-million in debts due the city is a fair gamble.
Fianza for his part grinned, “The suit should have been filed a long time ago.”
Meantime, lone cynic Clemente said, “We can insist BCDA and CJHDevCo should not compromise our share… Thing is, we are not party to their agreement.”
“We can file a collection suit but we may end up losing more.”
She added she is not in favor of a suit but if becomes the official stand of the city, then that’s the only time she would give support.
Pundits in City Hall observed nil P13-million in filing fees indicated in the CLOs budget.
They said, if the council really wants it, that is the only time the CFC can re-allocate the budget from the proposed 2010 budget.