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Chamber asks City to qualify businesses allowed at twin buildings, set up TWG

ORMOC CITY – More than a year after the New City Hall was completed and started being used, an ordinance governing the lease of the former Executive and Legislative buildings has been drafted and went under public scrutiny last Tuesday, August 9.
Councilor Sotero Pepito, committee chair of economic enterprise, presided over the hearing. Also in attendance were vice mayor Nepomuceno Aparis I, city treasurer Angelo Roman, and the city council’s legal adviser Atty. Mariano Corro. In the audience were representatives from several concerned and interested business firms and establishments.
One concern brought up was insurance for clients of the would-be tenants of the buildings concerned. Joel Brazil, president of the Ormoc Chamber of Commerce and Industry, pointed out that in the section discussing the insurance, there is no protection for the general public taken up. The section merely requires GSIS coverage for the buildings. Brazil recalled the fire that razed UNITOP, killing 27 people, observing that there should be insurance for clients who might get hurt through difference circumstances in the premises of the leased buildings.
Eric Labrada, corporate HRD manager of Gaisano Capital Group, on the other hand, agreed with the observation saying they have comprehensive general liability insurance for customers, though it is a small or limited amount.
Iñigo Larrazabal, vice-president for external affairs of the Ormoc Chamber and who has several businesses in Ormoc and in other cities, added his stores also have this kind of insurance. He clarified Brazil’s point, saying “It should be added in the contract of lease that the tenant be required to take insurance for its clients.”
Pepito and Aparis, on the other hand, said that even as they feel this was not the LGU’s responsibility anymore, they are noting down the comments. The committee would ask the LGU of Cebu how they set up that particular matter in their own experience. Also, Pepito asked Brazil to submit a position paper so they could have a better idea of how to deal with it. “If it can be incorporated into the ordinance,” Pepito said, “why not?”
Larrazabal also asked if the proposed length of the lease, which is 10 years, could be extended for an enterprise that intends to stay longer like McDonald’s or a similar businesses. Pepito said in that case, the bidder or lessee will be asked to present their intention. It can then be arranged if the explanation for a longer lease is deemed acceptable.
Larrazabal also raised another important issue, with regards to what businesses should be allowed in the area. “It’s sad if that becomes another ukay-ukay place,” he said.
He explained that if there are guidelines and other qualifications for becoming the lessee aside from being the highest bidder, he and other prospective bidders would like to know what they were so they could arrange to qualify completely. “Willingness to pay the most should not be the only criteria,” he emphasized. “I’m just looking at the integrity of the location.” Larrazabal is the grandson of the late Mayor Iñaki Larrazabal, in whose stead the twin buildings were constructed.
He pointed out establishments like Ayala or even Gaisano has strict guidelines on what businesses they consider for tenants on how they choose the best bidders. He said the city could adopt these guidelines.
Aparis, on the other hand, clarified that the bidding committee already has a set of rules they follow. In section 5 of the draft ordinance also, some qualifications are enumerated. Aside from a competitive offer to lease and a solid financial background, factors such as the nature of the business are to be considered as well. Also for consideration are the overall benefits that the locator brings to the city and its relevance to present and prospective plans.
The Executive and Legislative buildings were declared as patrimonial property in a resolution that was approved by the city council in a session last April 14, which means it is not for public use anymore. The declaration can also pave the way for its sale, as there are no more legal hindrance.
On the other hand, in a draft copy of the position paper of the Ormoc Chamber to be submitted to the city council about the matter, the Chamber asked that a technical working group be composed to set the standards in qualifying prospective bidders; that the matter at hand is not a simple procurement and the incumbent Bids and Award Committee may not be the best office to draft the guidelines; and that as representative of business, that the Chamber be part of the TWG and be allowed to sit as observer in the BAC; and if renovations be made, that it conform to its strategic location and its impact to tourism and environment be taken into account; and for the lessees to be required to procure third party liability aside from increasing the proposed lease period 10 to 15 or 20 years, depending on the input and investment to ensure that the lessee recovers his investment. With a report from LMJimenea

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