THE Secretary to the Mayor of Manila, Bernie Ang, has dared the political rivals of frontrunning Presidential candidate Mayor Isko Moreno and mayoral candidate Vice Mayor Honey Lacuna to focus on presenting what they have done and will do for Manilans, instead of peddling lies to cover up their lack of essential programs for the city residents and lack of any help extended to Manilans at the height of the pandemic.
Ang said this, as he also issued a clarification regarding what he branded as ‘fake news’ being peddled by those seeking to get publicity to promote their candidacies, without mentioning that they offered no help to the city at a time when the residents needed it the most.
He pointed out that at the height of the pandemic brought about by the COVID-19 virus in 2020, the City Council of Manila raced against time to look for funds that will augment the budget of the City of Manila to be given by way of cash assistance and food allocation subsidy for the Manileños who have lost their jobs and livelihood, like all other Filipinos, as a result of the pandemic.
The city government’s Asset Management Committee (ASC) then made a study and inventory of patrimonial properties of the City of Manila and recommended the least beneficial among the list, for eventual disposition in order to generate the needed funds. The ASC then recommended the sale and disposition of Divisoria Property with a land area of 8,000 square meters.
According to Ang, the justification made by the committee in its recommendation to dispose of the said property was based on its study that the city will not be able to generate more income on the property due to the onerous and disadvantageous contract entered into by then Mayor, Gemiliano ‘Mel’ C. Lopez, Jr. with Linkworld Construction and Development Corporation.
Entered into on March 13, 1992, the contract allowed the lease of Divisoria Property at a measly P20 per square meter per month and this became in effect for over a period of 25 years, with 10 percent increase in rental every three years.
Over the said 25 years, the City was able to collect only more than P57 million or less than P3 million a year, not to mention that the contract allows the developer (Linkworld) to construct a multi-level commercial establishment known as Divisoria Mall and placing the market at the basement which is below street level, he said.
After the submission of the report by the ASC to the City Council, the latter enacted Resolution 171, 2020, authorizing the City Government of Manila to enter into a contract with any refutable corporation or entity for the disposition of the said property under the terms and conditions most advantageous to the City of Manila.
The Festina Holdings, Inc. won the public bidding and the City Government requested Festina not to evict the market stallholders. The Commission on Audit (COA), thru its Technical Services Office, then released its Appraisal/Evaluation Report finding the transaction to be in order and the sale reasonable.
“There is no truth that the market stallholders were evicted despite their refusal to pay the rentals to Festina Holdings, Inc. and pay the city government the business permit. They were merely warned that if they continue to refuse to pay rentals and business permits, they will eventually be evicted,” Ang said, noting how for the longest time, those complaining have not been paying their dues to the city.
The vendors are complaining the low sales they are encountering inside the market and demanded that they be allowed to sell their goods on the streets which the City Government refused.
“The City has no intention to malign the reputation of the former Mayor Gemiliano Lopez, Jr., believing that his intention was for the best interest of the city at that time, without expecting the repercussion in the future. However, due to the malicious and baseless insinuation and accusation of Mr. Alex Lopez in trying to project himself as more pious than the Pope, we have no alternative, but to reveal the onerous contract entered into by his father, which eventually forced the Asset Management Committee to recommend the disposition of the subject property, being the least beneficial to the City,” Ang stressed.
He pointed out that when the residents were displaced economically due to the pandemic, Lopez did not donate a single centavo to the local government efforts to provide cash and food asisstance for Manilans.
The city, he said, gave a total of P2,000 to 700,000 families under the cash assistance city amelioration crisis assistance fund (CACAF) at P1,000 given on two occasions, apart from the food boxes that were given to the same number of families for a total of eight months.
Ang said that since the sale happened a couple of years ago and the stallholders are talking it about it only now and without mentioning that they have not been evicted even if they refused to pay their dues, it is clear that there is dirty politics behind their move.
He added: “The motives are very dubious and the timing is highly questionable. Also, by not paying their dues, these stallholders deprived the poor residents of assistance which could have been derived from the income that should have been generated by the city government from them.” (Baby Cuevas)