Business: Ayala Land’s Action on Capitol Project Depends on Court Decision
Ayala Land will wait for the decision of the court on the case filed by SM Prime Holdings against the Provincial Capitol on the sale and lease of thegovernment’s 7.7-hectare prime property in Bacolod that was awarded to them, before it will decide what to do with the project, Ayala Land president Antonino Aquino said yesterday.
Vision for North Point Commercial Area
Aquino, speaking at a press briefing for the opening of Ayala’s The District North Point in Talisay City, said the controversy has put the project on, a P6-billion Capitol Civic Center that was envisioned to be the growth center in Negros Occidental.
Aquino said right now Ayala Land is focusing on its P7-billion North Point Estate in Talisay, the first large-scale, mixed use, integrated, master-planned community in Negros.
Yesterday, Ayala Land opened its District North Point, a community retail center within its 215-hectare North Point Estate, with P1 billion in investments. It is part of the P4.5 billion investment poured into the project, with P3 billion more in the pipeline, or until the project is fully completed in 2017.
Ayala Land senior vice president Emilio Tumbucon said the North Point is the first of its kind in Western Visayas, and the latest and most exciting destination in Negros.
As for the Capitol Civic Center project on the 7.7-hectare property, Tumbucon said, "Right now it’s a status quo because there is still a legal issue...there’s a complainant, I cannot comment."
But he was quick to add that "we are continuing to be interested in the development of Negros...What we have done in The District is probably the best manifestation put in place in terms of investments."
Tumbucon said the P6-billion investment in the Capitol Civic Center just "materialized in some way."
Because of the case in court, and after more than a year that the Commission on Audit waited before it approved the contracts, Ayala Land had re-focused on a much larger, 215-hectare development project in Ayala North Point, located in neighboring Talisay City.
The company earlier said the North Point is a sustained commitment of Ayala Land to help grow the economy of Negros Occidental as well as generate jobs and further enhance income opportunities for the people of Negros.
SM Prime, the other bidder to the property, insists that it won in the bidding. It filed a case in court assailing the decision of the Provincial Capitol in awarding the contracts to Ayala Land.
On Sept. 13, 2012, Tumbocon wrote to Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., "After more than a year since the property was awarded to Ayala Land for development, we regret that we are unable to pursue the project on account of the delays and legal disputes that continue to threaten its implementation, though at no fault of Ayala Land."
"In light of this, and considering that the provincial government was unable to fulfill its obligation to deliver the property to us under the terms of the agreement, we are open to discussing with you a mutual disengagement from the project," Tumbocon wrote further.
Asked whether Ayala Land will still push through with the Capitol Civic Center if the court decides in favor of the Provincial Capitol, Tumbucon yesterday said, "We’ll cross the bridge when we encounter the river."
The hearing of the case filed by SM Prime Holdings against the Provincial Capitol on the controversial sale and lease of the latter’s 7.7-hectare prime property to Ayala Land was reset from March 18 to May 2.
Assistant Provincial Legal Officer Mary Ann Manayon-Lamis, who heads the Provincial Capitol’s Defense Team, said the March 18 hearing was moved because of the conference of the judges.
Lamis said they have already presented their side during a hearing at the RTC Branch 50, and SMPHI is expected to present a rebuttal on May 2.
It is now up to SMPHI if they want to present its rebuttal, in which case the Provincial Capitol will have the opportunity for a surrebuttal, she said.
If SMPHI will not present a rebuttal, then both sides can already submit their respective memorandum, afterwhich the court is expected to render a decision, Lamis explained.
The RTC case is viewed as something that can even be elevated to the Court of Appeals if SMPHI is not satisfied with the local court’s decision.
On top of the P6-billion development for the Capitol Civic Center, the Negros Occidental provincial government will have earned a total of P3.5 billion from the sale and lease of its 7.7-hectare property to Ayala Land.*