OLONGAPO CITY: Senator-elect Richard Gordon and a city councilor here have asked the court to stop reelectionist Mayor Rolen Paulino and SM Prime Holdings, Inc. (SPHI) from carrying out a deal, which they claimed to be “grossly disadvantageous to the government”.
Also included in the complaint are majority members of the Sangguniang Panglunsod, which approved the deal.
Gordon and reelectionist Councilor Edic Piano asked the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 here to issue a writ of mandamus to compel Paulino to comply with City Ordinance No. 19, series of 2014, which prohibits the displacement of buildings and structures within the city’s civic center complex.
Gordon and Piano also asked the court to declare the agreement null and void and issue a temporary restraining order to halt ongoing construction work in the area.
The hearing on the case was set on June 16 before Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde.
The case stemmed from Paulino’s signing of an agreement with SMPHI for the lease of the 38,383-square meter government-owned civic center complex, which houses the Marikit Park, city museum, convention center, Red Cross building, the city library and Gordon College.
The SMPHI signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with the Olongapo City government to construct a world-class shopping complex with convention center and hotel, the Olongapo Museum, a rainwater catchment basin and a solar-powered facility that will make Olongapo one of the most environment-friendly cities in Central Luzon.
Following the MoA signing, Paulino said part of the agreement with SM is the improvement of Marikit Park, which would be retained as a city government property and will be used as a venue of various activities of the city and events of the mall to accommodate huge crowds.
Paulino likewise cited the employment opportunities of the project to local workers, adding that it would also serve to attract tourists and boost their efforts to regain Olongapo’s glory days as the entertainment capital of the Philippines.
But Piano said the deal is facing stiff opposition from local residents as most of the structures, including centuries-old trees, had been demolished to give way to the construction of a mall and hotel facilities.
He also alleged that Paulino leased the prime real estate for P30 per square meter when the actual market value ranges from P2,500 to P3,400 per square meter.
Jeffrey Lim, executive vice president of SMPHI who signed the deal, said SM is very much aware of its responsibility to the environment and the community as shown in each and every place where their shopping malls are located.