By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Commission on Audit (COA) gave its nod to the land swap deal between the Iloilo City government and property developer Megaworld Corp. relative to the construction of the New City Hall.

Vice Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, head of a City Hall task force negotiating with Megaworld, said COA found no legal impediments to the land swap deal which will pave the way for the construction of the new City Hall.

Megaworld has offered part of the old airport lot in Mandurriao district as the future site of the new government center. The firm also broached the idea of constructing the building using the P350-million loan City Hall has obtained from the Development Bank of the Philippines.

Mayor Jerry Treñas then tasked Mabilog to negotiate with Megaworld and study the legality of the firm’s offer.

Mabilog said the land swap deal must be advantageous to the City government in terms of the area and value.

“The property that Megaworld is offering must either be equal to or more than what the City government is willing to swap. And the land swap deal must first be approved by COA before it can be consummated,” Mabilog said.

The vice mayor said the city government needs more or less 8,000 square meters on which to build the new City Hall.

The city government is planning to swap the old city hall site across Plaza Libertad with a parcel of Megaworld’s property in Mandurriao.

Mabilog said they have asked the help of the City Assessor’s Office to evaluate the pieces of properties which will be swapped between the City Hall and Megaworld.

“Once the COA has approved the land swap deal, the Sangguniang Panlungsod will authorize the mayor to close the deal with Megaworld,” he added.

As regards Megaworld’s offer to construct the new City Hall, Mabilog said COA stressed the need of a competitive bidding among interested contractors based on procurement laws.

“The construction will not be exclusive to Megaworld. It must bid with other contractors if it wants to handle the project. The P350-million loan will still be used to put up the building. The winning contractor will be paid phase by phase depending on their progress and compliance with the program of works,” the vice mayor said.

The New City Hall has been delayed due to budgetary concerns triggered by escalating prices of construction materials which jacked up budget estimates by 22 percent to P463-million from the initial P379-million.

Mabilog said Megaworld is willing to handle the project using the P350-million DBP loan “without sacrificing the integrity and stability of the new building.”

“Megaworld has a good track record in terms of constructing office buildings. They are willing to undertake the project using the available funds,” Mabilog added.

Mabilog said they have been carefully studying Megaworld’s offer to avoid legal problems.

“Bacolod City did finish its new government center earlier than Iloilo City. But Bacolod City officials are also facing cases before the Ombudsman and we don’t want that to happen here.”