LA TRINIDAD, Benguet –The Benguet State University (BSU) is at the losing end of the deal it entered into under a multi-sectoral memorandum of agreement wherein the State-run higher education institution ceded over seven hectares of its prime land for establishment of the multi-million Benguet AgriPinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) which remains non-operational to date.
BSU insiders claim the area covered by the supposedly state-of-the-art trading facility is not only five hectares but it covers more than seven hectares of prime land within the heart of the strawberry farms because of the inclusion of the roads leading to the center and the appropriate drainage systems.
The sources point out the construction of the BAPTC which started in 2009 deprived some 350 farmers of their income from the production of strawberries and the income that was supposed to accrue to the coffers of the institution amounting to P8.4 million over the past eight years.
Previously, farmers producing strawberries were allowed to cultivate some 500 square meters each of farmlands within the BSU property that significantly contributed to the robust growth of strawberry production in the town.
Further, the farmers were paying rentals of P15 per square meter annually for the use of the lands for their strawberry production that helped provide additional income to the institution in the amount of P1.050 million annually.
Aside from depriving farmers of their guaranteed income from their annual strawberry production, the sources point out BSU also lost its annual income over the past eight years and the chance to help provide an adequate supply of strawberries during the peak season of the fruit.
The sources explain the non-operation of the BAPTC because of the failure of disposers and farmers to patronize the facility makes the facility almost a white elephant which will definitely result in loss of income for the institution and farmers, waste of public funds, deprivation of adequate supply of strawberries by farmers, and loss of opportunity for the institution to maximize the potentials of the property for income-generating purposes.
The sources emphasize BSU management seems to be weak in invoking its rights over its properties being taken by other government agencies and local governments for projects that turn out to be unsuccessful because of the alleged absence of the appropriate studies before the put up of the vegetable trading facility.
According to the sources, if BSU management will continue to act as if its officers are philanthropists, the institution stands to eventually lose its land holdings not only to the rapidly increasing number of informal settlers tolerated by its weak leaders but also to its weak engagement with government agencies and local governments wanting to get one over the school for the use of its properties. By HENT