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Mayor Benjamin Magalong dismissed claims that money was involved in the decision to grant Original Proponent Status to SM Prime Holdings Inc. on the market development project.
“I take exception to allegations that money exchanged hands to make (SM) the (OPS) holder for the city’s market development project. My track record would speak for itself. Kung Mamasapano nga, hindi tayo nagpa-impluwensa, yang palengke pa. Kung sa Ninja Cops, di tayo nagpatinag, yan pa. Dito sa Baguio, we exercise genuine, truthful and authentic good governance. Bawal SOP at bawal under the table transactions dito,” the mayor said in a statement.
He said “the decision to grant SM the OPS was done in the name of fairness and in compliance with the P4 Ordinance which mandates that proposals be evaluated objectively and based on merit.”
“SM’s offer was substantial, Robinsons’ was lacking. A righteous government would never settle for an inferior offer,” he said.
He explained that the grant of OPS “does not mean that it is a done deal for SM.”
“It is just the start and not the end of the process. It simply paves the way for direct negotiations between the City and SM to get the project elevated to the next stage. There will be negotiations, drafting of the terms of reference, and the process called Swiss challenge where Robinsons and any other interested parties including the market vendors’ groups can participate to challenge SM if and when its negotiations with the city succeeds,” he said.
He said PPP policy guidelines of the city’s P4 ordinance remains as the better option to take since it will be at no cost to the city adding that the city cannot undertake the development on its own especially at this time of the pandemic.
The mayor assured that the market will remain a city property since it will be merely put on lease and that market stallholders will be allotted the first two floors of the facility which will continue to be owned and managed by the city government. The stallholders will be properly relocated during the building period and will occupy stalls at reasonably agreed upon rates.
He said apart from the long overdue upgrading of the city’s supposed show window, the project will also put an end to the sub-lease arrangements tolerated in the past.
“Corruption has become commonplace in the market for far too long. We have learned recently that market stalls rented by the city to stallholders are a mere P800 to P8,000 a month but these are in turn sub-leases to as much as P80,000 a month. Enough is enough!,” he said.
He urged the public to be discerning and not be easily swayed by baseless allegations.
“I promise to pursue this market project beyond politics and without a wisp of corruption. I promised you a righteous government and I am going to deliver that at the end of my term,” the mayor said. – Aileen P. Refuerzo