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LA TRINIDAD, Benguet– Most municipal officials snubbed the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the State-run Benguet State University (BSU) and the developer of a 4-story mall inside the university campus because of the alleged failure of both parties to involve the municipal government in the environmentally critical project.
Organisers of Thursdays event formally invited local officials to grace the aforesaid activity but all the members of the municipal council decided not to attend the same as an obvious sign of protest to the mall project that will be in direct competition to the controversial mall project of the municipal government right in the heat of the municipality that was stalled because of various issues and concerns that were raised by the concerned sectors.
Mayor Romeo K. Salda, who was he only municipal official present during the said activity, informed BSU officials and representatives of the developer that the groundbreaking ceremony for the project was the first even in his career that such activity was conducted prior to the supposed processing of permits from the local government to ensure that there will be no unnecessary delays in the prosecution of the same within the university campus.
He pointed out that the municipal government will not allow any activity of the developer to push through in the project site until such time that the project proponent shall have completed all the documentary requirements from concerned government agencies and the municipality to pave the way for the issuance of appropriate permits for the project.
Salda disclosed that the developer must secure the free and prior informed consent of the indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities that will be affected by the project because the municipality is an ancestral domain of the IPs and that such process must be pursuant to the pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA).
Earlier, Vice Mayor Roderick Awingan questioned BSU and the developer for their inability to lay the foundation for the implementation of the project, particularly the conversion of the site where the mall will be erected from its present institutional status to commercial, thus, the need to conduct public consultations that will pave the way for the put up of the mall.
See related story: Awingan questions mall project in school campus
Based on the available records from the municipality, it is only the area fronting BSU’s Institute of Public Administration (IPA) that had been declared as commercial area following the university’s earlier plan to put up a similar mall in the area.
Awingan also raised the fact that the university’s mall project failed to comply with the pertinent requisites of the institution as the same passed through the top to bottom approach instead of the usual bottom to top system of governance that casts doubts on the legitimacy of the project.
Concerned sectors claimed that the university should maximize its properties for the delivery of quality education to its students instead of venturing on questionable business partnerships that might create a cloud of doubt on the real objectives of the same.
From an initial 0.8-hectare area that will covered by the mall project, the same was significantly reduced to only 0.4 hectares as pear latest information from university sources.