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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, March 22, 2012
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Capitol land sale
faces further delay


It looks like the Negros Occidental provincial government will have to wait some more before it can sell and lease its 7.7-hectare property in Bacolod City to Ayala Land Inc.

That is because the Commission on Audit commission proper, in its deliberations Monday on the review of the Capitol’s deed of sale and contract of lease, did not come up with a ruling.

COA spokesman Gilbert Kintanar yesterday said the commission proper, composed of the COA chair and two commissioners, has instead ordered a technical team from its Technical Services Office to evaluate and re-appraise the value of the property and to report back on its findings.

“That is their prerogative. We will just have to wait another month. Hopefully they will have a decision in April,” Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. said yesterday.

The provincial government had submitted the deed of sale and contract of lease to the COA for review in July last year yet, Marañon had pointed out earlier.

Kintanar said in an interview over Bombo Radyo, that this is a normal process for the CP in this kind of transactions where the sale involves a big amount and it is just to ensure that the final contract for the sale of the property is in favor of the government.

Kintanar explained that CP is giving utmost priority to the Capitol-ALI deal but it has to carry out its mandate of ensuring that the deal is in favor of the government.

“We are assuring the parties involved that we are doing everything we can to hasten the process. And once we receive the report from the Technical Services Office, we will calendar it for the next CP meeting,” Kinatanar added.

The next CP meeting is tentatively set on April 13, he said.

A source said one of the issues being looked into by the COA is the claim that the provincial government only disclosed that a floor price for the 7.7 hectare existed after a bidding had been conducted.

SM Prime Holdings Inc. has taken legal action against the provincial government for its decision to declare Ayala the winner of the negotiated bid for its property.

Marañon, however, has insisted that the action of the province was above-board, and SMPHI did not win the second bidding for the property, because, like Ayala, it had entered a bid below the floor price set.

That is why a negotiated bidding was held, where SMPHI refused to participate, he said.

Rep. Alfredo Abelardo Benitez (Neg. Occ., 3rd District) yesterday denied insinuations that he was involved in the delay of the COA action because of his alleged links to SMPHI.

“From what I know, COA is not sitting on it (the sale and lease of the property), it just so happens that there is a case,” Benitez said.

“In the normal course of business, if there is no case, it will not take long,” he said.

Benitez said that, as far as he is concerned, he wants the sale and lease of the Capitol property resolved as soon as possible as it will redound to the benefit of the people.

“I would rather see a speedy resolution,” he said.*CPG

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