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opinion / Columnists

Crown jewels

opinion / Columnists
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FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

Crown jewels

In other countries they are regarded as crown jewels of the state and are forbidden from being sold. But in our own country they are treated as ordinary assets and have been sold one after the other without remorse.

These so-called crown jewels are the prized real estate belonging to the government of any country. Our country has sold many of its crown jewels within Metro Manila. We risk losing whatever else remains if government policy does not change.

Many of the Philippines’ crown jewels in Metro Manila have been sold to business groups which proceeded to retail them for commercial and residential purposes. These once-upon-a time crown jewels include the following:

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The 240-hectare chunk of the Philippine Army camp in Taguig City known as Fort Bonifacio. This has been sold to a business consortium which developed the property into what is now called Fort Bonifacio Global City (or BGC). It has now evolved into a business district that rivals Makati City as the Philippines’ business capital.

The 25-hectare portion of the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City that serves as the Philippine Air Force headquarters. This premium chunk of land—across from the international airport—was sold to Megaworld and the latter has developed the same into a business-residential enclave known as Newport City, where the Resorts World complex is located.

The 74-hectare government property in Taguig known as the FTI (Food Terminal Inc.) complex, and which is a proximate expansion area of the burgeoning business districts of Makati and BGC. This was sold to the Ayala conglomerate, which
is now developing the area into a “business district that will feature retail, dining and entertainment.”

The 29-hectare government land that is located adjacent to the Quezon City Trinoma shopping mall. This was also sold to the
Ayala conglomerate, which has committed to build 45 building towers on the property.

There are still a number of military camps, and sequestered parcels of valuable land managed by the government’s Privatization and Management Office (PMO), that may suffer the same fate of being irretrievably sold.

What should rouse the envy of Filipinos is the practice in other countries of merely permitting the long-term lease of their crown jewel, instead of selling them outright. The lease periods are between 25 and 99 years. The lump-sum rent for the entire lease period is collected up front, thereby enabling the incumbent administration to gain instant access to a sizeable cash revenue — not far from the proceeds of an outright sale — that is needed to fund big-ticket projects for the current population.

Because the crown jewels are only rented out, they become virtual “renewable” natural resources that yield revenues, not in one-time sales deals but in periodic cycles, and for the benefit of the succeeding generations. In contrast, an outright sale merely bestows short-term benefits on the present generation but causes detriment in the long term to future generations because the number of revenue-yielding government land assets decreases while the population increases.

The policy that is currently obtaining in the Subic and Clark free port zones — where land is merely leased out for 25 years — shows that there is no need to sell property crown jewels to derive benefits from them. Business entities build commercial structures in Subic and Clark notwithstanding the strict land-lease arrangements. The tax incentives that draw businesses to Clark and Subic can be easily matched by the benefits of premium location conferred by our prized properties in the cities.

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The outright sale of the Philippines’ property crown jewels stems from the same frame of mind that tolerates the exploitation of our natural resources without regard for the future. The loss of these crown jewels conjures up similarities with the permanent loss or destruction of our forests, mines, and seas. It leaves nothing for our future generations.

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TAGS: crown jewels, Flea Market of Idea, government land, Inquirer Opinion, Joel Ruiz Butuyan
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