Thursday, June 26, 2008

Robinsons Mall in Ilocos Norte

This afternoon officials of Robinsons Land and Venvi Corporaion unveiled the plans for a Robinsons Mall in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte.

Groundbreaking is scheduled this coming September.

Robinsons Place-Ilocos Norte will be a two-story mall with a total floor area of 2.7 hectares.

The mall will be completed by December 2009.

Personally, I prefer this project better than the one proposed in Laoag because it does not involve relocating a school and dealing with the Catholic Church.

The area where the mall will be located sits in a sprawling 40 hectare property owned and managed by Venvi Corporation.

No relocation.  No traffic.  No complications.  No problem.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Proposed Conversion of Elementary School into a Mall

Today the Laoag City Government, headed by Mayor Michael V. Farinas, together with the Archdiocese of Laoag, heade by Bishop Sergio Utleg, held a public hearing/consultation at the Laoag City Hall Auditorium regarding the conversion of Laoag Central Elementary School into a Commercial Establishment (i.e. mall or department store).

If it involved just a plain, unoccupied parcel of land to be leased or sold to an investor (i.e. SM, Robinsons, Gaisano, etc.) then there's no problem.  Go ahead and build one!  I've been waiting for a National Bookstore and a decent movie theater for a long time. 

But the project is made complicated because it involves a Public Elementary School on land originally owned by the Roman Catholic Church.

First, on the matter of the public school.  The lot, which covers a 13,000 sq.m. area, is where the Laoag Central Elementary School (LCES) is located.  Logically, if you're going to build a new structure, the present occupants must be relocated, if they even want to.

The good news is they want to.

The gooder [made-up word, i know] news is that the developer/investor is willing to build a new school complex for LCES in another location, complete with other facilities LCES doesn't have as of the moment (like camping area, bigger room size and high-tech AV rooms).

Yun naman pala, eh.  First problem solved.  LCES? check!

Second, and I believe more important, matter is regarding the ownership of the lot.  The lot was owned by the Roman Catholic Church.  It was sold to the local gov't of Laoag back in the 1920's on the condition that it be used exclusively for educational purposes.  Otherwise, the sale will be annulled.

I think anyone would agree with me that the operation of a mall is no way related to "educational purposes."

What the City Government wants to do is enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Church to create a Joint Ownership between the two and lease the lot to the developer as one entity.  Ang profit sharing ng dalawang co-owners ay 75% to the Church and 25% to the City Government.

On this point, I was forced to stand up during the open forum and give my unsolicited advice.

I told them that I didn't think they could do that.  I mean they could do that, it's a free country, but it's not such a good idea kasi magkakaroon ng confusion.  Pwede pa nga na may nangyaring novation, I dunno.  Ang dami kasing pwedeng mangyari.  Ang alam ko, with this MOA in question, nag-short cut sila.

For me, with my little experience as a corporate lawyer, the issue of ownership should be resolved first.

And we can only do that if the City Government would return the said parcel of land due to the fact that the condition will be violated.

That way, the annotation in the TCT is made clean.  Malinaw.  Babalik siya sa simbahan.

Then and only then, after it is reverted back to the church, the latter can enter into a new contract with the City Government.

Otherwise, kung di-diretso tayo sa MOA (Joint-Ownership) there's always a cloud over the title.  Ano na nangyari sa unang sale?  Na-annulled ba?  Na-novate ba?  And more important, who is the owner?

After my comment, Mayor Farinas explained that the issue of ownership should be resolved by the courts and the reason why they came up with the MOA is so that there wouldn't be delay in the implementation of the project.

Precisely my point!  If the issue gets dragged to the court system, then the project might not push through.

So, better pa rin na maayos na yung issue of ownership.

I dunno kung tama ang interpretation ko (na dapat step by step gawin).  I hope my brods na lawyers (paging, Ryan, Marc, Jat and FJ) who read my blog could comment on this.

Meanwhile, I hope the City Government slows down a bit and studies this whole transaction in detail before they do anything we'll regret in the future.

Yes, putting up a mall or department store will mean more jobs for Laoagenos, but if the project will be stalled in the middle of things due of legal issues, then lahat tayo talo.

PS:  Anong say ng simbahan?  Okay lang sila sa "Joint-Ownership."  Okay sila sa MOA.     

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Benguet Mining in Ilocos Norte

Benguet Consolidated Mining Corporation (BenguetCorp) held its first province-wide public consultation today at the Ilocos Norte Capitol Auditorium.

Above is a photo of BenguetCorp's President and CEO, Mr. Benjamin Philip Romualdez, explaining to us the ABCs of large-scale responsible mining.

The afternoon program was well organized.  First, officials from the DENR talked about mining in general.

Next, officers from the MGB discussed the FTAA process.

Then, representatives from the NCIP (since most of the prospected lands are ancestral lands belonging to indigenous peoples) explained the IPRA law.

The organizers were smart because around this time waiters started serving food.  Now, usually in this kind of forum ang snack namin kape at biskwit lang.  Aba, heavy merienda ang sinerve.  Pang mayaman.  (see picture below)

We were served barbeque, fried chicken, pancit, fresh lumpia, soda, coffee, cream puff and brownie.

By the time all of us were full, that's when Mr. Romualdez gave his presentation.  I kidded with my seatmate na matalino ang BenguetCorp.  Pinakain muna kami para maantok kami at di na tumayo at mag-react during the open forum  Hehehe.

Anyway, Mr. Romualdez' presentation was very convincing.  They are still at the FTAA application stage.  They want to explore 5 towns, namely, Adams, Vintar, Carasi, Solsona and Nueva Era.  A total of 21,000 hectares.  According to their initial research our province has Gold, Manganese, Iron and Copper.  'wag daw muna kami mag-alarm kasi "exploration stage" lang daw sila.  And it will take them 4 years to explore, if permitted.  And another 7 years to make feasibility studies, again, if permitted.  After that, tsaka lang sila magmimina.  So, matagal pa daw.

Then, pinasalita nila si Bishop Utleg.  He said kahit na malayo pa yung time na magmimina ang BenguetCorp, if we allow them to explore now, it is as if we are allowing them to mine in the future.  For how can we then tell them to go away after they have made their studies (and apparently would have spent 9 million pesos)?  By that time, di na kami makaka-hindi.  

Afterwards, Open Forum na.  Usually, ako ang unang nagtatanong (ganito na ako grade school pa lang), but this time I didn't have to initiate.  Ang daming mga stakeholders and pumunta sa mic at nagtanong.  In fact yung mga IPs from Adams came complete with big placards which read, "NO TO MINING!"

After about 35 minutes, while people still wanted to ask questions, Congressman Bongbong Marcos stood up and gave his remarks.  In a nutshell, he said for us to study this matter extensively, and that we should balance environmental concerns as well as its economic benefits.

And then tapos na.

Sa akin lang, yes, may benefits sa mining.  And as chair of the committee on ways and means, I should be endorsing this project since it would mean jobs to hundreds of ilocanos and added income for LGUs.  Pero alanganin ako kasi kahit sabihin natin na pwede naman magkaroon ng RESPONSIBLE mining, the truth of the matter is, may mawawala sa lupa namin.

Kahit gano ka ingat ang minero sa pag-mina, may mawawala na mineral resource.  You can't replant gold, like trees.  That's the bottom line.

So, tama nga si Congressman Marcos.  This is a complicated issue.  Kelangan talagang pagbalansehin ang dalawang panig.

mag-re-research muna ako...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Just when you thought you had 'em, they get right back atcha

Remember my problem with Government Price in utilizing my Development Fund allocation? how actual gov't price is more expensive than the retail price, which is ridiculous 'coz it should be the other way around?

Well, I thought I was able to beat the system (meaning, maximizing the use of my Development Fund without the SOP/'Bukol' usually associated with public bidding).

Or so I thought.

It all started when a Barangay requested for piglets as a livelihood project.  As it turns out, there are no accredited suppliers of pigs or piglets in the government's list of accredited suppliers.  Since i wanted to help this barangay, I asked how we could grant the request absent any gov't accredited supplier.  I was told I could request the release of the amount it would cost to purchase the piglets in the form of Financial Assistance.

One piglet costs 1,500 here.  So if I want to give 4 piglets it would cost me 6,000, right?  So I asked how much mababawasan sa Development Fund ko (y'know, the SOP/bukol).

Wala daw.  The gov't will just give a check in the amount of 6,000 to the beneficiary.  No SOP. No VAT.  No 'bukol.'


I finally found away to avoid the pesky VAT and SOP--through the form of Financial Assistance!

I was so excited I told my staff to process the other requests via Financial Assistance.  A long-barrel typewriter that cost 13,500 at gov't price could sell at 10,000 retail.  A set of 6 bikes that would cost 22,000 at gov't price could sell at 12,500 retail.  Consturction materials that would cost me 20,000 at gov't price would be just 15,000 retail.


Think of all the savings I could make!

Think of the other barangays I could help because of the savings!

And then the bombshell...

When I secretary finally started processing the first three requests for financial assistance, she was told that there was a limit.  Up to 8,000 lang daw.  Mapipilit pa ang 10,000.  But anything above kelangan bidding na uli.

Oh, man!

Just when you thought you had 'em, they get right back atcha.

I knew it was too good to be true.

So, balik VAT/SOP nanaman ako.  Ano magagawa natin, di ba?

Back to the drawing board. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

MIRACLE Schmiracle

The vice-governor called for a special session this week to pass a resolution certified as "urgent" by the governor.

This was about a resolution authorizing the governor to participate in the Monetization of IRA Collectibles for Local Empowerment Program (or MIRACLE 2 Program, in short).

What happened was for fiscal years 2001 and 2004, the government worked on a reenacted budget. Because of this, there were adjustments in the IRA (Internal Revenue Allotment) shares of the local government units. Adjustments that were withheld until this day.

This differential amounts to P12,577,000,000.00. You read right, 12.5 Billion Pesos.

As for my province's share? It comes down to P29,602,853.00. That's 29.6 Million Pesos.

Now we are entitled to the entire amount. The Local Government Code of 1991 says so. And we were entitled to that back in 2001 and 2004, but the National Government withheld it from us.

Now it comes to us with this MIRACLE 2 Program.

Shoving down our throats is more like it.

What's happening is, National Government is saying, "We are giving you two (2) choices, we give you your 29.6 Million now; OR, we give it to you in 7 installments."

Sounds reasonable, right?

Until you read the fine print.

The catch on Option A is we get the money discounted na. You know how much the discount is? THIRTY PERCENT! 30% of 29.6 Million is around 9 Million. So, if we choose Option A, we only get 20 Million. Good bye, 9 Million, although to begin with, amin din dapat yun.

What a rip off!

The catch on Option B is that the first installment will be paid in 2009 pa. AND, we are only assured of payment while GMA is president. We are not sure if the next President will honor the payables from 2011 to 2015.

Ano ba yan?

Either way, we're screwed.

Ang sobrang nakakainis dito, pera namin yan eh. We are entitled to the entire 29.6 Million. Why can't we get it then?

I don't understand. The 1987 Constitution and the Local Government Code both say that the policy of the State is devolution and decentralization of powers. Connected to this is the automatic release of LGUs shares in national taxes. How come then does Malacanang still hold us by the balls?

Akala ko ba decentralized na tayo?

Akala ko ba devolved na tayo?

Why are we still at the mercy of Malacanang?

So, this is all pretend? The Constitution and the Local Government Code are just guides, ganun ba?

Anyhoo, according to the vice-governor, we needed the money, so the SP approved the MIRACLE 2 Resolution during the special session today.

What did I vote?

Well, I was hedging on voting for the resolution if we could negotiate the rate of discount--may be lower it to 25% (after all, each percent amounted to 300,000.00). But my proposal was shut down by the DBP and LBP representative. Fixed na daw yung 30%. Bale, take it or leave it daw.

My jaws dropped to the floor. non-negotiable?

Unbelievable. Some choice you gave us.

I abstained.

For the life of me, I don't know why we let ourselves get bullied by these people.

For related news, here are some links:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Window Washing in the Rain

When my friend Barnett and I were driving back to Corinthian Gardens the other day, and we were stopped at the intersection of Quezon Ave and Agham Road, I noticed a little girl, couldn't have been more than eight years old, dash up to a Toyota Prado and start wiping its windows with a makeshift squeegee.

My first thought was, 'Oh Lord, here come these pesky kids again.  They wipe their dirty sponges and basahans on your windows in exchange for money.  Even if you don't want to, they still go at it.'

I told Barnett, who was driving, to leave some space between him and the car in front, so that, if the kid goes up to us we could move ahead to signal to her that we don't want her services.

Anyway, back to the girl.  She was pesky alright.  She kept on wiping the Prado's left windows even if the driver didn't want to.

After she realized she wasn't getting any barya from the car, the little girl walked away and ran back to the center island.

And at that moment, from feeling irritated I started feeling sad.

Because it was raining.  It was raining hard.

And she was trying to clean windows.

How stupid, di ba?  Sino ba may gusto magpalinis sa isang batang kalye with a rag that leaves your window dirtier than it was before, much more kung umuulan?  In other words, it was useless.  Kahit ba sabihin mo malinis yung pampunas, umuulan pa rin, di ba?

But it was exactly that.

Ganun siya kadespirado.

She needed the money so bad, she'd do something useless just to get it.

Ganun niya kelangan yung pera.

At naawa ako sa kanya.

p.s.: I wonder if she even knew, at her age, that what she was doing was something stupid, given that the rain would wash away her work.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

My first facial

My fiance, Ria, treated me to my first facial last week.  In return, I treated her to hair strengthening treatment.  Mini-gifts in celebration of being together for 8 years.

gifts... that's what I thought...

So we come in and the attendant tells me to lie on the chair/bed/gurney.  She then moistens my face with a sponge; Covers my eyelids with cotton patches; Applies some gel on my face; and begins to massage it.  Somewhere in between or after, I'm not so sure, she puts a steamer inches away from my face.  Para daw magbukas yung pores ko.  10 minutes daw.  I had no problem in the first few minutes, but later on I almost suffocated.

Di pala walk on the park 'tong facial na 'to.  But I remained optimistic.

THEN, the pricking.

The attendant started with my forehead.  Not so bad.

And then she attacked my nose.




This is not a gift! This is not a gift! I told myself repeatedly as I tried holding back my tears.  My fiance hates me, I screamed inside of me.

The pain!  The pain!

Memories of being initiated in the fraternity came flashing by as I weighed which was more painful.

Ang sakit talaga.  Meanwhile, the attendant just goes on with her pricking, never mind kung nagluluha na ako dun parang niagara falls.

I mustered up the courage to tell her na masakit.

Sabi niya madami kasi akong blackheads sa ilong.

Ininsulto pa ako ha.

Amenado naman ako na I have big pores in my nose, but does it have to hurt so bad to declog them?

After the 30 minute ordeal, she wiped my ears (that's where all my tears went) with tissue, and then used this laser thing on me to close the pores daw.  I was just glad it was over.

When I saw my fiance again I asked her if she knew how painful facials are.

She grinned.

Gift ha.  This is was punishment for all my procrastinating on wedding preparation duties, I know it.

I'm never going to have a facial again.