Lack of consultations in LT Mall project assailed

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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Former Mayor Edna C. Tabanda assailed the alleged lack of consultation among concerned sectors in the municipality on the proposed construction of a 4-story mall within a 4,000-square meter property of the State-run Benguet State University (BSU) which is a requisite in the realization of high-impact development projects pursuant to existing law, rules and regulations.

Tabanda admitted having heard of the mall project during her term as the town’s chief executive from 2013 to 2016 but the same did not push through as the former president then was not inclined to pursue the aforesaid project because it did not pass through the prescribed process in the university.

“BSU is not an independent entity, thus, whatever developments that will be undertaken within its properties must pass through the local government. Concerned sectors must also be consulted on such magnitude of development that will be undertaken because of the numerous economic, social, economic and other issues that are involved,” Tabanda stressed.

The former official pointed out that the proposed location of the mall remains classified for institutional use and not for commercial purposes, thus, the put up of the structure in the area is questionable because the operation of the mall will surely cause the eventual death of business activities in the nearby public market and other business areas in the area.

According to her, BSU should concentrate in providing adequate facilities for the advancement of education instead of competing in business activities since the institution is getting substantial subsidy from the government for its operations among others, thus, it should maximize the use of its prime properties for education.

Earlier, netizens criticized BSU for fast tracking the proposed construction of the mall that will be undertaken by Graceland Corporation as the same is being done even without the required permits from concerned government agencies and the municipal government.

Tabanda stated that the operation of the mall will not only directly compete with business activities in the area but it will also be a competitor of the residents on the scarce water supply, power, among others, aside from posing a serious threat to the environment because of the huge volume of solid waste and waste water that will be generated by the facility which will be an added burden to the town’s limited land area.

She also questioned the university if it has an updated comprehensive land use plan pursuant to existing rules and regulations that reclassified the proposed site for the mall from institutional to commercial as the same has to pass through the required consultations with concerned stakeholders and that the same could not simply be done overnight.

The ex-mayor claimed that the municipal government should also look into the internal procedures of the institution that might have been bypassed by concerned BSU officials just to allegedly favor the developer to ascertain of the processes were complied prior to the award of the development to the aforesaid corporation.

Tabanda explained that it will be the town’s micro, small and medium enterprises that will be impacted once the mall will be allowed to operate, thus, appropriate measures should be undertaken to prevent the scenario from happening because of the direct competition that will be provided by the mall.

Photo by Armando M. Bolislis