By John Noel E. Herrera
The Iloilo City Government will still own and run the Iloilo Central and Iloilo Terminal Markets even if a mall and property developer overhauls and improves the two facilities.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Treñas also assured that they are ready to defend its Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project with SM Prime Holdings Inc. against legal challenges.
“We are ready to present our defenses,” Treñas said.
The mayor was referring to a case filed by the Association of Stall Owners and Transient Vendors (ASTRAVEN) against the PPP’s lease agreement.
ASTRAVEN represented by its president Rex Donasco named Treñas and the Sangguniang Panlungsod represented by Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon as respondents in the case.
ASTRAVEN is seeking declaratory relief and prohibition and injunction with prayer for a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order.
But Treñas said the case will not affect the redevelopment project of two markets as the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) already confirmed the lease agreement between the city government and SM Prime.
The agreement is also considered “fait accompli” or irreversible as it was already confirmed by the Iloilo City Council and there is no more action needed to be enjoined.
Treñas said that he has no idea who are the other vendors who joined Donasco in filing the case, even as he noted that market vendors, including Donasco, attended the consultations on the redevelopment project.
“Waay ko kabalo bala kung sin-o ang members ni Rex Donasco, but si Rex Donasco ari diri sa kwarto ko sang naga consultation kami. Nakita ko gid siya sang akon nga mga mata nga ari diri sa akon kwarto during the consultation, and so it is not true (allegation),” the mayor said.
(I do not know who the other members of Rex Donasco’s group are, but Rex Donasco was here inside the room when we had our consultation. I saw him with my very own eyes that he was here during the consultation, and so the allegation is not true.)
Treñas also clarified the issue that the Iloilo Business Club (IBC) was not consulted on the matter, saying that the club had endorsed the project.
The mayor pointed out that there are issues that should be addressed in the markets such as cleanliness and improvement of facilities, and that is probably the reason why the city is getting a lot of endorsements for the project.
“Anyone can file a case, but let us be more circumspect. This is for the development of the city,” Treñas added.
CITY HALL WILL RUN MARKETS
One of the apprehensions raised against the redevelopment project is that vendors will be burdened by higher rents as SM Prime will spend hundreds of millions or even billions of pesos on the two markets.
Treñas said funding for Iloilo Central and Terminal Markets redevelopment will be shouldered by SM Prime.
But after the redevelopment, the city government’s Local Economic Enterprise Office (LEEO) will still be in charge of market operations, particularly rents and assignment of stalls.
Section 21 of Article IV of the PPP lease agreement stated that the lessee or SM Prime will solely be responsible for the “operation, maintenance, and management of the Commercial Development” which excludes the new Central and Terminal markets.
Section 22 of the same article also provides that the lessor, or the Iloilo City Government, shall be solely responsible for the operations, maintenance, and the management of the new Iloilo Central and Terminal Public Market.
Atty. Quintin Magsico Jr., PPP Selection Committee chair, emphasized that the project would bring more benefits to the city.
Treñas said that while SM Prime will redevelop the two markets, it will only lease portions of the property.
“SM Prime will only be leasing portions of the markets. SM Prime is not leasing the whole market. That is what we need to clarify. In exchange for it, the rentals will be used for the redevelopment of the markets,” Treñas said.
Article II Section 4b of the lease agreement states that “in addition to the development requirements above, the lessee (SM Prime Holdings Inc.) shall, subject to approval by the lessor (City Government), have all the right to construct additional buildings and/or build, install or otherwise place any other improvements on the leased premises and substitute, alter, or repair any part thereof.”
Based on the computation, the full term of the lease for both central and terminal market is P933 million, but Treñas said SM Prime is ready to spend up to P3 billion for the project which will include the establishment of a wastewater treatment plant, drainage, water system, security cameras, among others.
Treñas also assured that all legitimate vendors in the markets will not be displaced.
With the ratification of the lease agreement by the city council, the finalization of the market design of the Iloilo Central and Terminal markets will be the next focus of the project.
The city mayor said that consultations on the design will be conducted, especially with the market vendors.
“Once there is a design already, proper consultation will be made. But you know, consultations can only be as much, we cannot consult everyone, and we cannot be forever consulting everyone. At some point we just have to decide and finalize the design,” Treñas added.
Treñas also affirmed that the design of the redevelopment of two markets will focus on the needs of micro-small- and medium-scale entrepreneurs (MSMEs) such as better comfort rooms, retail spaces, and installation of computerized systems to protect MSMEs from safety hazards.
The construction of the markets may start before the year ends if the designs are already finalized.
The mayor said he is hoping that the completion of the redevelopment project will coincide with the completion of the improvements of other district markets.
“Hopefully, kay two years ni and kung maka start sila within this year nga 2022, then before the end of 2024 tapos na,” he said.
(Hopefully, since this is for two years, and if they can start within this year, then we can finish it before the end of 2024.)