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Congressman defends Cebu-Filinvest deal


Tuesday, April 28, 2009 [ sunstar.com.ph ]

CEBU CITY -- A north district congressman defended city officials in Congress Monday over the City Government’s joint venture with Filinvest Land Inc. (FLI).

Representative Raul del Mar (Cebu City, north district) told his colleagues that Representative Pablo John Garcia’s (Cebu, 3rd district) call for a House inquiry on the city’s joint venture is only a retaliation of the Provincial Government directed at the city.

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In a privilege speech in the House, del Mar narrated the cause of the “bad blood” between city and province officials. He said this resulted in “hurt pride” that led to name-calling, insults and eventually, the House inquiry on the city’s joint venture with FLI.

Quoting the explanations provided him by city officials, del Mar also answered the questions and allegations raised by Garcia against the city’s joint venture agreement last week.

But if the congressional hearing pushes through, del Mar wants the House committee where Garcia’s proposed inquiry will be referred to, to invite representatives of the Taguig City Government and R-II Builders to the investigation.

Del Mar said the invitees should also be asked to present to the committee their joint venture contract and all the documents and data relating to the joint venture agreement, for the sake of transparency.

Garcia, for his part, said that during his 30-minute speech, del Mar prefaced his arguments with “Cebu City officials say,” “according to city officials,” “city officials maintain that” or something of that sort 31 times.

“So it was a safe speech. No one can argue with him that those are what city officials told him,” Garcia said.

Del Mar said a thorough comparison of the Cebu City-FLI and the Taguig City-R-II Builders would help the committee decide whether or not the 10-percent share of the city in FLI’s gross sales of built-up units is fair.

“I agree 100 percent with the Cebu City officials’ desire that the city’s joint venture agreement with FLI and this joint venture agreement between Taguig and R-II Builders mentioned by the gentleman (Garcia) should be compared for transparency’s sake, after all, Mr. Speaker, the inquiry sought by the gentleman is in aid of legislation,” said del Mar.

The legislator’s speech was welcomed by Acting Vice Mayor Hilario Davide III, who said that he is happy that somebody stood up for the city officials in Congress.

In his privilege speech last week, Garcia told Congress that the Cebu City-FLI joint venture is disadvantageous to the City Government because the latter stands to get only a 10-percent share in the revenues, instead of the standard industry practice of a 40 to 50-percent share.

But city officials had argued that the 40 to 50 percent share apply generally to a joint venture where the parties intend to develop, subdivide and resell the lots.

On a question of personal and collective privilege speech, del Mar narrated Monday the causes of the rift between the Cebu City and Capitol officials, and gave a point-by-point answers to the allegations raised by Garcia.

He said he was forced to deliver a speech after his attempts to interpellate Garcia last week were crowded out by discussions on the proposed amendments to the Constitution.

Among other issues, del Mar defended the city officials on the alleged violation of the Public Land Law when it sold a 10.6-hectare portion of the South Road Properties (SRP) to FLI without congressional authority, and the alleged violation of the Constitution, which prohibits the sale of lands of the public domain.

He reiterated the city officials’ position that “the SRP is a patrimonial property of the city held by it in its proprietary capacity, which it may sell or otherwise dispose of to private persons, including corporations.”

Quoting city officials, he said the SRP was transferred in full ownership to the City by virtue of a presidential proclamation, which declared the SRP alienable and disposable land.

Also, the special patent issued to the City Government pursuant to the proclamation converted the SRP to patrimonial property of the city, which can be sold to Filipino citizens and qualified corporations.

“This being so, any sale of the SRP or portions of it does not require an act of Congress. Neither did the sale to Filinvest violate the Constitution, they say, because the SRP, being patrimonial property of the city, has been withdrawn from public use. In short, Cebu City officials are saying the Constitutional proscription does not apply,” said del Mar.

Del Mar said Monday that he wanted to ask Garcia, who he said represents the third district of Cebu, why he is particularly interested in seeking a congressional inquiry on the city’s joint venture with FLI.

“I’d like to venture an explanation for everyone’s better appreciation and in order to put things in their proper perspective. Mr. Speaker, all is not well between the City of Cebu and the Province of Cebu. All of Cebu knows there is bad blood between the two local government units’ officials that has brought their relationship to, perhaps, its worst today,” he said.

He went on to discuss the failed land swap agreement between the city and the province and the city’s moratorium on new developments along the Banilad-Talamban corridor, which he said, was viewed by Capitol officials as an effort by the city to block the construction of Capitol’s Ciudad project.

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