Baguio braces to takeover Maharlika building

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The city is now preparing to take over the management, operation and administration of the Maharlika Livelihood Center following the decision of the agriculture department to turn over the facility to the city government much earlier than the scheduled expiration of the 5-year lease agreement in 2025.

City Budget Officer lawyer Leticia O. Clemente stated that based on the financial projections prepared by the city’s local finance committee, the city government stands to earn a gross income of more or less P104 million and a net income of approximately P40 million annually with at least 85 percent occupancy of the nearly 1,000 available spaces for lease within the structure.

She added that the designated team from the agriculture department’s Human Settlement Development Corporation is conducting an inventory of the assets and liabilities of the facility until December this year in preparation for the scheduled turnover of the building to the city by March next year.

The city budget officer claimed that the local government will be earning more once it manages and operates the Maharlika Livelihood Center compared to the P22 million annual earnings of the city public market in terms of regulatory fees being paid by the over 4,000 vendors doing business in the various sections of the market.

According to her, there are nearly 1,000 available stalls in the different parts of the facility which are available for occupancy although more or less 900 slots had already been occupied by lessees that have 1-year contracts with the existing administrator.

The area occupied by the MAR-BAY and Maharlika buildings within the city-owned property right at the central business district area is approximately 5,000 square meters.

Clemente disclosed that the local finance committee had a difficult time accessing pertinent documents from concerned government agencies to guide them in their recommendations on steps to be undertaken by the city to prepare for the takeover that is why appropriate measures had been done to directly coordinate with the concerned government agencies having jurisdiction on the operation of the Maharlika Livelihood Center to be able to get a clear picture of the prevailing situation in the area.

The Maharlika Livelihood Center stands on the former site of the Baguio Stone Market which was gutted by a major fire in 1970 and was demolished in the mid-1970s. In 1972, the Baguio City council leased the property to MAR-BAY and Co., Inc. which was given the right to build and manage the Maharlika Livelihood Center for 25 years.

The center opened in 1982 under the auspices of First Lady Imelda Marcos as human settlements minister. The establishment is the first shopping mall and livelihood hub in Baguio.  Nearby souvenir shops which were displaced by fire moved into the building.

In 1975, the Baguio City council extended the lease period of the Maharlika Livelihood Center to 50 years, with the lease set to expire on April 27, 2025. In 1980, the city council acknowledged the transfer of MAR-BAY’s rights to the Maharlika Livelihood Complex to the Human Settlements Development Corporation (HSDC) including additional developments built by MAR-BAY in the property, such as the MAR-BAY Baguio Plaza Hotel and MAR-BAY shopping center. The HSDC is an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA). In 2009, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued a directive to the DA to handover the retail complex to the city government since it does not fulfill any agriculture-related function.  However, the retail center remained under HSDC by the end of Arroyo’s presidency.

The Baguio city council allowed Mayor Benjamin Magalong in 2019 to start negotiations with the HSDC for the return of the Maharlika Livelihood Center to the city government ahead of the scheduled expiration of the lease deal in 2025. By Dexter A. See

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