This is a very sad day for Negros and Bacolod City, AyalaLand Inc. has withdrawn its P6 billion development plan for the 7.7-hectare provincial government property in Bacolod City, Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. announced yesterday.
On Thursday, Marañon received a letter from ALI senior vice president Emilio Tumbocon, informing him that ALI was withdrawing from the project awarded to it by the Capitol on July 20, 2011.
“Negros has lost a golden opportunity for a P6 billion investment and thousands of job opportunities for Negrenses," the governor said.
Marañon said that, until yesterday, the Commission on Audit had not issued its ruling on the deed of conditional sale and contract of lease of the property to ALI by the Capitol that it had submitted for review in July last year yet.
“This is a very bad signal for investors who would like to come to Negros. If you are a businessman, you cannot be kept hanging and placed in uncertainty. You need a definite period of time to plan,” the governor said.
“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, through no fault of AyalaLand," Tumbocon wrote.
Considering that the provincial government has been unable to fulfill its obligation to deliver the property to ALI under the terms of agreement, “we are open to discussing with you a mutual disengagement from the project,” he told the governor.
Jorge Miguel Marco, ALI corporate communications head, in August last year, said they planned to develop the 7.7-hectare property of the Capitol into an integrated mixed-used civic and commercial district that will combine the center of government with commercial and residential use, making it the new growth center of Metro Bacolod and Negros Occidental.
The Capitol Civic Center would encompass retail, office and hotel, a multi-use convention and events venue, and a residential commercial zone, he said.
It would also include the development of Capitol Park, he added.
“We do not intend to provide more of the same, but we want to offer something unique that could put Bacolod City and the province in a high development,” Marco had said.
Negros not only lost P6 billion in investment from ALI, including a much-needed convention center, but investments of other business locators, the governor said.
Definitely, somebody is blocking the release of the COA decision, Marañon said, and it is believed to have been done for political and economic reasons, and rivalry in business. “I hope the persons who blocked this project are forgiven for their sins,” he said.
The governor said he is creating a special committee composed of provincial government department heads and the private sector to come up with proposals on how to develop the 7.7-hectare property with the withdrawal of ALI.
The ALI project is a big, big loss but maybe, God will have a better project for Negrenses, he said.
Director Rolando Macale, head of the COA Public Information Office, who confirmed on September 4 that a decision on the Ayala project had been reached by the commission proper in mid-August, yesterday said he had no information yet from the office of COA chairperson Ma. Gracia Pulido Tan on its contents.
Tan in a text message in response to a DAILY STAR query last week said: “May I reiterate that I am not the person to ask about this as I have inhibited. As I told you previously, please check with the commission secretariat.”
But Macale said all requests for contact by members of the press and their agencies for interviews should be addressed by the COA Public Information Office.
Tan has inhibited herself from deciding on the Negros Occidental provincial government’s sale of its property to ALI over concerns that the law firm of her husband represents the Sys, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda had said in April.
SM Prime Holdings of the Sys had bidded for the 7.7-hectare property of the Capitol and has a pending suit before the Regional Trial Court against the provincial government for not awarding the project to it.
Tumbocon, in his letter to the governor, said ALI remains committed to investing in Negros Occidental, it is developing a 200-hectare North Point project in Talisay City into a mixed-used development.*CPG