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Two cents wart

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Two cents wart

/ 05:11 AM September 12, 2017

Believe it or not, some lucky groups still enjoy this miraculous lease on prime property in Metro Manila at 2 centavos per square meter a year.

Again, the property is in Metro Manila, with its ongoing construction and real estate boom. It is right at the corner of major thoroughfares Buendia Avenue and Roxas Blvd. To top it all, it is a government land.

The price of land on Roxas comes up to at least P150,000 per sqm, if you are lucky.

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No wonder, the lease of 2 centavo-per-sqm caught the attention of two congressmen, Rep. Ben Evardone (Eastern Samar) and Rep. Salvador Belaro (partylist 1-Ang Edukasyon), who called for a congressional investigation.

Here is their two-cents worth: “disadvantageous contract.”

The wart of a contract came about some 21 years ago in 1996 during the administration of Kuya Eddie, aka Fidel V. Ramos.

At that time, the government put into action RA 7844, or the Export Development Act of 1994, to create a new exhibition site for Philippine goods for export.

It called for the government group Export Development Council, or EDC, to choose an organization to do the job.

EDC came up with the Philippine Exporters Confederation, or Philexport, to which the government leased more than 5 has. in the reclaimed area on Roxas.

Guess what—the lease price was P1,000 a year for the entire prime property that could accommodate more than 116 official-sized basketball courts.

Yes, only 2 centavos per sqm a year! All in the name of export promotion.

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According to the government plan at that time, Philexport would also have to turn around and sublease the entire caboodle to another private company called Meci, or Manila Exposition Complex Inc.

Under the fantastic scheme, the income of Meci from the exhibition center would then fund the export promos—but of course under the strict supervision of EDC.

By the way, the EDC then and now must have 12 members, seven from the government and five from the private sector.

Head of the council today is Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, ably assisted by Foreign Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, and BSP Governor Nestor Espenilla.

Based on reports, Lopez had said EDC would “review” the deal.

He did not specify whether he would review the deal between the government and Philexport, or the deal between Philexport and Meci.

Besides, Lopez was only reacting to reports about the resolution in the House of Representatives to scrutinize the “disadvantageous contract,” otherwise known as “wart.”

Lopez happens to be the chair of EDC that must protect the interest of the government in the export promo scheme.

The money, brother, the money!

Now he still needs to “review” something that was supposed to be his job from the start?

We know the government earned only about P21,000 for the lease of the prime property in the past 21 years.

Just exactly how much Philexport received from Meci in all those years nevertheless remained the big mystery. Or for that matter, how much Meci actually amassed all those years.

Thus Evardone and company wanted to know.

In its prospectus, Meci actually claims ownership of the World Trade Center Metro Manila, or WTCMM, located at the 2-centavo-per-sq m property.

It also claims to be part of the ICCP Group, bannered by investment house Investment & Capital Corporation of the Philippines, founded by well-known business leader Guillermo Luchangco.

Based on its promo materials, the ICCP Group claims ownership of the World Trade Center Metro Manila, or the WTCMM, right in the property that it subleased from Philexport for an unknown amount.

It also proclaimed that WTCMM is the only exhibition center in the Philippines that is listed by the Union des Foires Internationale, the world association of exhibition industry.

Well and good. It is just that Evardone and company noted that the rent of less than 2 centavos per sqm a year might be too low.

They noted that Meci also did not deliver its part of the deal to build office buildings for the government, which spends billions of pesos on rental for its offices.

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