The Cebu provincial government is willing to sell the 24.7-hectare Balili property located in Barangay Tinaan, Naga City.
This comes after Naga City Mayor Vanessa Kristine Chiong expressed the city’s intent to acquire the property during her State of the City Address last Tuesday.
The purchase of the Balili property during the administration of former governor Gwendolyn Garcia is the subject of a graft case before the Sandiganbayan.
The respondents are Garcia, former provincial treasurer Roy Salubre, former provincial budget officer Emme Gingoyon, retired provincial assessor Anthony Sususco, former provincial engineer Eulogio Pelayre, former Provincial Board member Juan Bolo and land owners Amparo and Romeo Balili.
Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III announced yesterday that he wanted to sell the controversial Balili property so that it could be put to use.
Chiong announced that her administration wanted to develop the Balili property into another industrial zone for Naga City, a component city located approximately 30 kilometers south of Cebu City, citing lack of land area to accommodate more industries in the future.
Chiong and Davide have been informally discussing the possible purchase of the property by Naga City.
“It’s a useless piece of property … we don’t even know why it was purchased in the first place. When it was found out that most of the property is submerged, they kept changing their purpose of buying it. There are cattle grazing on it now but it’s never been beneficial for the province,” said Davide. But before any purchase could be done, Davide said the provincial government will have to consult the Economic Enterprise Council (EEC) to iron out details, such as the appropriate purchase price.
“We will first communicate with the EEC, probably next week, to determine the appropriate selling price and other plans before selling it. I want to hear the position of the EEC too. But if it were up to me, I’d rather (just) sell it,” Davide added.
The EEC is the provincial counterpart of the National Economic Development Authority (Neda).
If the plan to sell the Balili property will be approved, it will be the second controversial property the Garcia administration acquired, to be disposed by Davide’s administration.
Last August, Davide officially sold to the Mandaue City government the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) for P300 million.
Mandaue City Mayor Gabriel Luis Quisumbing said they plan to transform the decrepit events arena to a prime commercial property through public-private partnership (PPP).
Davide expressed confidence that the Sandiganbayan will approve their plan to sell the Balili property to the Naga City government.
“I guess the selling of the property will not affect any cases tied to it. Similar to the CICC. We just need to inform the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan,” Davide said.
During her administration, Garcia bought the 24.7-hectare resort from its owners, Romeo Balili and his wife, Amparo Balili for P98 million in April 2008, for the establishment of a Tinaan Eco-Industrial Zone.
But a survey conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR-7) later showed that around 20 hectares of the property were submerged in sea water and planted with mangroves.
Hence, its title could not be converted from timberland to “public land.”
Reports of an attempt by Garcia and some former Capitol officials to reclaim the submerged portion at the cost of P47 million prompted Manuel Manuel and Crisologo Saavedra to file a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas in 2010.
In 2012, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio–Morales recommended the filing of two counts of graft and technical malversation of funds the case before the Sandiganbayan. /with USJ-R Intern Patricia Erlaine Luardo