LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Concerned sectors challenged the present administration of the State-run Benguet State University (BSU) to be transparent on the conditions of contract with Graceland Corporation for the put up of a 4-story mall within a 4,000-sqare meter portion of its property right in the heart of the valley.
Former Mayor Edna C. Tabanda stated that BSU is not a totally independent institution that could hide details of its transactions because as a higher education institution that upholds the highest standards of morality and transparency, it should be brave enough to allow the public to scrutinize its dealings to ascertain whether or not such agreements are grossly disadvantageous to the government.
She said that based on initial reports that have reached her, BSU allegedly allowed the mall area to be leased to the developer at a mere P130 per square meter compared to the lease rentals being collected by the university from other leaseholders which ranges from P375 to P450 per square meter.
By its face value, Tabanda argued that such prescribed lease rental that will be collected from the developer is already grossly advantageous to the institution as the area that will be developed is one of the prime properties of the institution which is supposed to be maximized for educational purposes as BSU is already being provided with the funds for its development.
The former mayor also questioned the institution for allowing the developer to already advertise the availability of spaces that will be leased when there is no guarantee if the concerned government agencies and the municipal government will be issuing the required permits because of some issues on permitting laws, rules and regulations.
Tabanda dared municipal officials to take the matter seriously because it involves legal processes and procedures, especially the failure of the university to facilitate the reclassification of the land where the development will be introduced from the present institutional to commercial even before entertaining such kind of proposal to develop a mall in the area.
The ex-mayor claimed that she doubts if there was a feasibility study that was conducted prior to the leasing of the aforesaid property because one of the sectors that will be heavily impacted by the realization of the mall project will be the town’s micro, small and medium enterprises that are situated in the vicinity of the proposed mall, thus, the local MSMEs will surely die a natural death once the mall will rise in the said area.
She disclosed that she is willing to spearhead a movement that will go against the implementation of the project through various legal means if BSU will insist to push through with the same as it will not contribute in the upliftment of the local MSMEs.
Photo by Armando M. Bolislis