Foundation wants DOT chief to review Paskuhan sale

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    CITY OF SAN FERNANDO— The board of trustees of the Giant Lantern Festival Foundation Inc. (GLFFI) in this Pampanga capital has requested Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez to review the sale of the Philippine Christmas Village (Paskuhan) here by the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) in December 2014.

    The GLFFI also asked Jimenez to give an assurance on the “propriety” of the sale of 9.3-hectare park to the SM Development Corp., the foundation said in a Feb. 20 letter, which was furnished to Punto! on Saturday.

    “We entreat you not to contribute to the forces that render the Kapampangan Christmas parol to become dimmer and less important to the hearts of the Filipino people,” Corazon Pamintuan, GLFFI head of secretariat, said in the letter.

    It was signed also by City of San Fernando Mayor Edwin Santiago, GLFFI chair, and trustees Alfrito Mah, Lourdes Javier, Socorro Lim, Franco de Jesus, Mariano Castro Jr., Conrado Pacla, Edgardo Chua, Alex Magsino and Shirley Te.

    President Aquino and Pampanga Representatives Oscar Rodriguez and Joseller Guiao were furnished copies of the letter.

    The GLFFI leaders told Jimenez of their “dissatisfaction and incredulity” about the sale of the park developed by the Department of Tourism and the defunct Philippine Tourism Authority and opened by the late President Corazon Aquino on Dec. 11, 1990.

    “We find it incredulous for Tieza to sell the Paskuhan Village considering that Tieza’s mandate does not include the sale of heritage places such as the Paskuhan Village. While we are aware of the order for asset privatisation issued by the Governance Commission for Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations we still feel the need this purported sale because the sale…marks the end of an era,” they said.

    “We find it incredulous as well why this sale could transpire when the land could have most likely been donated to the government exclusively for the purpose of showcasing the rich Kapampangan Christmas traditions, most especially the Giant Lantern,” they added.

    Mark Lapid, Tieza general manager, said in an interview last February that “everything in the privatisation of Paskuhan was aboveboard.”

    He declined to confirm the company that won the public bidding.

    The winning bidder got Paskuhan for P939 million.

    Lapid made public the documents used in the sale: Two memoranda of understanding, two deeds of absolute sale
    for two lots and a deed of exchange swapping a 5-hectare lot for another lot beside the first 4.3 hectares.

    Congressman Guiao filed House Resolution No. 1898 seeking an investigation into the sale.

    The heirs, speaking through their cousin Jose Lazatin, said they would “still give the Paskuhan lots in support of Pampanga’s development.”

    The park is across Century Properties’ Azure north. On the east are SM Pampanga and Robinsons Starmills. It is beside the toll gate of then North Luzon Expressway.

    Lapid said Paskuhan was one of 13 PTA properties that were to be sold in a privatisation process that began in 2011. Chadaro Consortium won in a public bidding in April 2014 to handle consultancy services. It recommended that Paskuhan, along with the Agoo Playa Hotel, Matabungkay property and Talisay property, be part of the first tranche of assets that would be on sale.

    “It is Tieza’s mandate to dispose of its properties,” he said.

    He confirmed that Rodriguez, while mayor of the City of San Fernando, requested Tieza to turn over to the city the Paskuhan in 2011. This was, however, turned down by the Tieza board because by then, the best use of properties
    were being studied.

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