BAGUIO CITY — Retailer Robinsons Malls was granted an original proponent status (OPS) by a committee this week so it can negotiate a public-private partnership (PPP) deal for the construction of a modern Baguio market.
Robinsons was in the running alongside SM Prime Holdings, said City Administrator Bonifacio dela Peña in a Friday (Aug. 14) briefing.
Both companies pitched unsolicited proposals for the modernization of the Baguio City Public Market, months after a technical working group drew up a P6-billion masterplan for four interconnected market buildings, complete with small parks and its own roads and bridges.
The masterplan was abandoned when the cost proved to be too steep for the city government, Dela Pena said.
The technical and financial review of the Robinsons and SM proposals remain confidential until Mayor Benjamin Magalong confirms or vetoes the August 12 votes cast by the “PPP for the People” selection committee.
Both companies offered to build multi-level structures at the market, one of the city’s prime real estate, in exchange for a 50-year lease.
Robinsons said it can build a market building, and a second retail building. SM outlined a more detailed plan for a 7-story retail building, leaving two floors exclusively for the city’s market vendors.
The mall proposals, however, were questioned by a member of the selection committee. Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda wrote Dela Peña on Wednesday, asking, “Is the construction of more malls in the city part of our comprehensive development plan? Aside from [a new mall’s impact on Baguio’s] carrying capacity, has the buying capacity of the public also been considered?”
The city’s market vendors made the same assertion during the Aug. 4 session of the city council session. They informed the council that they want to be part of the market modernization to prevent a takeover by “multinational companies.”
Built in 1913 after Baguio became a chartered city in 1909, the century-old market has drawn tourists who purchase fresh Benguet vegetables and souvenir items there before traveling home.
“We want to preserve that identity of our market as a [genuine] market. We fear that when some other multinational company [undertakes the development], what we will have is an additional mall,” said lawyer Zosimo Abratique, president of the Baguio Association of Market Vendors (Bamarva), at the council session.
Four vendors associations formed a consortium to finance the modern market project, but it failed to submit a counter-proposal before Luzon was locked down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Dela Peña said the OPS is not a lease award, but the start of formal talks with Robinsons for the formulation of a PPP project, should Magalong adopt the committee decision. It would be subjected to a Swiss Challenge, he added. This means other companies, including the market vendors consortium, would be invited to match the Robinson offer.
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