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Pandora’s box of abuse

“Opportunities lost are obviously behind the conspiracy, which the yellow mob and the foreign governments spearhead, to oust President Rody Duterte from power.

TEB

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The probe into the burdensome water concession agreements sparked a wider review, which now covers all contracts with the private sector suspected of having onerous provisions. The initial results are appalling and point to excesses from members of the yellow mob.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier faulted Manila Water president Jose Rene Almendras “and other Malacañang employees” for the “disadvantageous” water concession contract signed with the Ayala Group water unit and the Manuel V. Pangilinan-led Maynilad.

Almendras was former Department of Energy secretary under President Noynoy Aquino and was later named as Foreign Affairs secretary.

Rody bared that Almendras worked with other lawyers to craft the concession agreements that made the country surrender its sovereign rights over water to Maynilad and Manila Water.

Then came a revelation from chief presidential legal counsel Sal Panelo that the government is suffering losses due to property developer Ayala Land Inc.’s sweetheart deal with the University of the Philippines (UP) allowing a ridiculously cheap rental of the TechnoHub property in Diliman, Quezon City.

Panelo said Ayala’s real property arm, Ayala Land, has been paying only P20 per square meter a month in rentals to the state university.

The going rate at the area is about P200 to P500 per square meter a month in rent.

In 2006, Ayala Land entered into a 25-year lease agreement with UP to develop and convert the 37-hectare land along Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City into a commercial lot.

A possible uneven deal was also bared by the President as he indicated his intention to review the state-run Light Rail Transit Authority’s existing contract with the Light Rail Manila Corp. where Fernando Zobel de Ayala and Manuel V. Pangilinan also have key roles in its operations.

A similar one-sided deal was found by the Department of Finance, which bared a lease contract with onerous terms between Chevron Philippines (formerly Caltex Philippines) and Batangas Land Co. Inc., which is under the wings of the state-owned National Development Co., in which Chevron pays a monthly rental fee of just 74 centavos per square meter (sqm) on a 120-hectare or 1.2 million sqm property it occupies when it should be assessed P17.90 per sqm per month.

Chevron uses the large tract of land as an oil import terminal. At P10.66 million per year since 2010, the rent Chevron has been shelling out is only around four percent of the P257.76 million per year of the current fair market rental rates — meaning huge losses for the government.

In the case of Chevron, a one-sided deal which is a throwback to the colonial past should be blamed.

The American oil giant Caltex, which is Chevron Philippines’ parent, was able to acquire the Batangas lot and other prime properties owned by the government under the 1946 Bell Trade Act passed by the United States Congress.

Under this law, American entities were granted “parity rights” on land ownership in the country as a condition for the US government’s payment of $800 million in war damage claims to the Philippines.

Parity rights had allowed American companies to own land in the Philippines just like Filipinos.

These parity rights were extended for 20 years through the Laurel-Langley Agreement signed in 1955 by then Sen. Jose Laurel and Sen. James Langley. Such parity rights ended in 1974.

With the expiration of the 1946 Bell Trade Act, Caltex, and its subsidiary Chevron Philippines, was granted preferential treatment in continuing to occupy and use various real properties, including the Batangas industrial park.

The opportunities lost are obviously behind the conspiracy, which the yellow mob and the foreign governments spearhead, to oust President Rody Duterte from power.

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