The Waste-to-Energy (WTE) facility mulled on the Balili property in the City of Naga will now be pursued after the charges filed against Governor Gwendolyn Garcia regarding the property’s purchase got dismissed in December 2020.
In its resolution, the Sandiganbayan Special 5th Division established that despite the prosecution’s claim, “there was no conspiracy to defraud the government or to cause injury upon the government.”
Governor Garcia emphasized that the charges against her, even before they were cleared, have not dissuaded her from looking into the development of the said property.
In 2007, the market value was at P680 per square meter of the 24.7-hectare property. The Balilis, however, granted the Capitol a discounted price of P396 per square meter.
After twelve years, the fair market value is pegged at P7,500 per square meter.
In a December 2 press conference, Garcia said of the 24 hectares, the previous Capitol administration donated two hectares to the families affected by the 2018 Naga landslide.
“Ang nahibilin nato 22.5 hectares - titled, alienable and disposable – now valued at P1.85 billion,” she added.
However, because the mainstream media focused more on the controversy, it failed to tackle the benefits of the purchase of an “idle property” which in turn led to so many Cebuanos “misinformed and underinformed.”
“Kadtong kusog kaayo motawag nako og ‘corrupt’ wala lagi mo-take up anang Balili nga acquittal,” she cited during the Dec. 2 presscon.
Even with the increased fair market value, Garcia said she will not sell the property.
“Kaila mo nako, dili man gyud ko mobaligya og yuta sa Probinsya. We hold on to it, we increase its value because this belongs to the people of the Province of Cebu. Ato rang i-increase ang value and we look for ways to earn from that property. That’s the way we do it,” she said.
“We are very, very careful with people’s funds and people’s properties. Kaning mga yuta sa Probinsya sa Sugbo giangkon ni’s mga Sugbuanon. Angay lang nga di ta ni ipamaligya. Di man gani ko gusto mo-donar. Gamiton nato atong kukote og unsaon na nato para ma-increase nato ang value, earn revenues, aron ato na ma-translate into infrastructure, services, and other programs to benefit the Cebuanos,” she stressed.
Power from waste
Garcia recalled that in her last term as governor in 2013, there was already an unsolicited proposal to build a waste-to-energy plant on the Balili property on a build-transfer-operate (BTO) scheme.
She disclosed that a “company was willing to rent the lot at a certain amount per square meter with escalation up to two years” and that the “proponent was willing to give a percentage of the revenue to the Provincial Government.”
Such proposal led to secure for the Balili property an economic zone status issued by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority.
When she returned as governor in 2019, Garcia met with various probable stakeholders keen on the WTE initiative. At least 14 firms expressed interest to bid from China, the United States, Japan, Europe and the Philippines.
Representatives of the firms, in a 2019 meeting at the Capitol, applauded the Province for “being at the forefront and championing the WTE cause.”
The WTE is a waste management facility that will burn waste and convert it to electricity.
Garcia emphasized her commitment to realize this goal while underscoring that “there is no other plausible solution in addressing the looming garbage crisis in the country but through WTE.”
Under the Capitol’s Terms of Reference (TOR), the project will be carried out on a BTO scheme. The property in the City of Naga will serve as Capitol’s equity while the winning contractor will build the facility. Within two years from the awarding of contract, the operation will start and will last for 25 years.
The contractor must give the Capitol basic 10 percent share of the gross income and pay land rental at P5 (five pesos) per square meter per month with an escalation rate of five percent per annum.
Under the BTO contractual arrangement, the winning bidder will get financial leeway as it will not incur an “upfront” investment for the land since the Province shall provide for it. The proponent will also be exempted from payment of real property taxes (RPT).
The governor further expressed that the building of a WTE plant could also help fill in the energy demand gap in Cebu’s towns and cities. The Department of Energy reported that Cebu’s electricity demand by 2040 will grow by 9,180 megawatts. (Eleanor Valeros)