• Smokey Mountain deal ‘detrimental’ to workers

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    A non-government workers group on Monday expressed serious concern over reports that a compromise deal has been reached between officials of the state credit guarantee agency, the Home Guaranty Corp. (HGC), and magnate Reghis Romero II in connection with the decades-old Smokey Mountain Development Reclamation Project (SMDRP).

    Gie Relova, of the Bukluran ng Manggawang Pilipino (BMP), demanded full public disclosure of all documents on reported negotiations that led to the deal, which his group believes is disadvantageous to its members since it involves Social Security System (SSS) funds.

    The HGC acted as guarantor for the Smokey Mountain housing project, which was initiated by then-President Fidel V. Ramos, and assumed all financial obligations to investors amounting to more than P4 billion, including interests.

    The SMDRP, however, failed to raise needed funds as projected by Romero and RII Builders.

    As of May 2014, according to Relova, the Home Guaranty Corp. owed the SSS P5.3 billion, which was utilized by past Presidents of the Philippines to finance mass housing projects of the government.

    He said the Social Security System was last paid in July 2008 when the HGC released P812 million as settlement of guarantees for its investment in the Suburban Housing Project in 2008.

    It was reported that the SSS had waived penalties and surcharges and agreed to swap real estate property, leaving the HGC to cough up P2.338-billion principal amount– P1,624,645,729.50 in basic 8.5 percent annual interest and P1,320,674,651.22 in compounded interest.

    “These kinds of investments between government agencies and private corporations have always been detrimental to the workers. We bear the brunt of their mismanagement, miscalculations, botched negotiations and political patronage. Add to the fact that these failed projects are taking away services from the rightful owners-beneficiaries of those funds,” Relova said.

    Worst, he added, there are now reports that the compromise deal between HGC and Romero would subsequently absolve the Romero group of any legal liability in connection with the contentious SMDRP.

    This is the reason why BMP, according to Relova, is urging the government, including the SSS, to explain the issue and not keep the public in the dark over the failed government housing project.

    “If there were any of the stakeholders that should be given top priority and not dismissed in any deal that should happen is the labor sector, for SSS funds are our funds, besides the fact that these funds were automatically deducted from our measly pay checks,” he said.

    The Bukluran ng Mangagawang Pilipino said the people have the right to know what happened to the money used by the government on a failed housing project.

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