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Land-grabbing in Subic export zone?

/ 12:11 AM November 17, 2014

Something is rotten in the state of Olongapo. A Japanese locator in the Subic Freeport Zone has been stopped from constructing a manufacturing plant in Subic on the claim of former Zambales governor Vicente Magsaysay that he has the rights over a one-hectare piece of land where the plant is being built.

Much to the Japanese’s consternation, Judge Richard Paradeza of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the construction of the plant on that piece of land.

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The Japanese firm, which is engaged in the ink-refilling business, is Cresc Inc. The piece of property on which it is building its plant was leased to it by the Subic Coastal Development Corp. (SCDC) in 2013, with the approval of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

And what did Magsaysay provide the court by way of evidence to justify Judge Paradeza’s issuance of the TRO? His own self-serving testimony and an allegedly outdated memorandum of agreement (MOA) he had with the SBMA back in 2008, which reportedly never came into effect because Magsaysay failed to get SBMA’s final approval within 30 days of the MOA’s execution.

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As stated clearly in the 2008 MOA, the land was to revert back to SCDC’s control under the terms of SCDC’s original August 2002 lease agreement with the SBMA. Thus, it is puzzling to the business community in Subic why Magsaysay is now, six years later, claiming the right to that piece of land. Indeed, Filipino and foreign investors in Subic are up in arms over this development because what is happening to Cresc can also happen to them, more so since the specter of TROs being issued capriciously has again reared its ugly head.

This is also very troubling to business locators in Subic, who see the former governor still bullying his way around, unwarrantedly delaying Cresc’s expansion of its manufacturing plant.

The Supreme Court, through its court administrator, should look into this matter because the public perception is that in the Philippines, TROs can still be bought.

Magsaysay claims he has the right over the one-hectare lot as “payment” for his alleged help to SCDC in clearing the land it started leasing from the SBMA in 2002. Reportedly, he had pestered SCDC no end to give control of the property to him although the claimed help he extended to SCDC was only token.

Not wanting to have anything to do with the questionable claim of the arm-twisting Magsaysay, SCDC returned the one-hectare property being claimed by the former governor to the SBMA for proper disposition.

Subsequently, the SBMA, Magsaysay and SCDC forged the MOA which never came into effect because Magsaysay’s Mobi and Red Enterprises never met the MOA’s terms and conditions since, allegedly, what the ex-governor wanted was not a lease but outright ownership.

But observers are saying that the fact that the SBMA approved SCDC’s sublease contract with Cresc shows the MOA with Magsaysay was still-born and Magsaysay is clutching at straws with his claim.

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The fight between Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Globe Telecom is not yet over despite the recent court decision in favor of Globe. The primary issue here is monopoly. Remember when PLDT had a monopoly of the telephone industry? Applicants had to wait for years to get a telephone line and even after they were given phone lines, the phones were almost always busy. The emergence of cell phones broke the PLDT monopoly, but even then the giant PLDT-Smart telecom company still wanted to keep competitors away.

Even now, complaints regarding telecoms services can be heard everywhere. Improvements are trifling; consumers have to endure what is being provided by their preferred service provider.

Industry players ware again in a clash at the Court of Appeals. The court issued a TRO to prevent the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) to act on Globe Telecom’s application to acquire Bayan Telecom (Bayantel) on competitor PLDT’s petition.

The lack of competition puts consumers at the mercy of the major player that calls the shots in every important aspect of the market, such as pricing and accessibility to products and services. Consumers call for a playing field that is open to competition as this is a door to better service.

With the acquisition and planned rehabilitation of Bayantel by Globe, the expanding needs of consumers may be better served. Competition can strongly benefit consumers. Bayantel, a very small player, can increase its subscribers from the present 350,000. The delay in its rehabilitation jeopardizes the existing customers of Bayantel who have long been waiting for service improvements.

But PLDT claims that the Globe-Bayantel deal is unfair and anticompetitive. Looking back, PLDT acquired Digitel. But now that the competing side is doing the same thing, PLDT is calling the deal “unfair.” Does the Globe-Bayantel partnership pose a threat to PLDT-Smart?

Globe clarified that Bayantel would still be a different entity, but PLDT is afraid that the rehabilitation will result in a merger. It is afraid of its own shadow.

The PLDT monopoly is definitely anticonsumer. It has cornered the market and has long dominated the industry. In pushing for the TRO, it has shown that it does not consider the interest of consumers or their freedom of choice.

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