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Negros gov’t insists on deal with ALI, says offer was bigger

Posted on August 17, 2011 09:20:37 PM [ BusinessWorld Online ]

BACOLOD CITY -- Negros Occidental provincial officials said Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI) offered a higher bid and proposed a bigger investment than rival SM Prime Holdings, Inc. for a government property here.

With this comment, the provincial officials asked the Court of Appeals to lift the 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) issued against the sale and lease of a 7.7-hectare Capitol property to Ayala Land and deny SM’s petition for a preliminary injunction.

In their joint comment filed on Friday, the officials said the provincial government stands to receive almost P3.576 billion from Ayala Land. A deal with SM Prime, on the other hand, will generate only P3.112 billion.

“The latter’s offer is lower by more than P392.459 million which spells a big difference to the province as this could be translated into more development projects for the countryside,” they stated.

The proposed investment of Ayala Land in the property was around P6 billion while SM Prime’s was only around P2.5 billion.

“Definitely, Ayala’s proposal is more advantageous to the provincial government. Indeed, the declaration of failure of second bidding paved the way for the negotiation process, which made possible the submission of a much better offer for the province that will inure to the benefit of the public,” they added.

The provincial legal office filed the comment on behalf of Governor Alfredo G. Marañon, Jr., the members of the committee on awards and real properties, and the Provincial Board.

Ayala Land and SM Prime officials could not be immediately reached to comment.

Assistant Provincial Legal Officer Mary Ann Manayon-Lamis said they were asking the court to primarily lift the TRO, which she earlier said will take effect from Aug. 5 to Oct. 5 unless and until it is lifted sooner.

They also sought the dismissal of SM Prime’s petition for certiorari, citing lack of merit and even asked the court to award damages to the state agencies.

Mr. Marañon said he was optimistic the issue will be resolved soon.

“This wouldn’t drag because our case is very strong,” the governor added.

In their joint comment, the officials said the proceeds of the sale and lease will be utilized for the provincial government’s countryside development projects.

The TRO comes alongside SM Prime’s pending petition with the Commission on Audit (CoA) to defer the approval of the provincial government’s deal with Ayala Land until questions on its validity are resolved.

SM lawyers made this request in a letter dated Aug. 1 to CoA Chairman Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan.

The Office of the Provincial Board released copies of the letter to the media Tuesday. -- Nanette L. Guadalquiver

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