Olowan seeks Alhambra ouster

COUNCILOR Faustino Olowan is batting for a change of management at the Baguio Convention Center after flaws on operations were revealed in a Commission on Audit report.

Olowan said management by City Tourism Officer Benedicto Alhambra should change.

“Dapat palitan siya, he is not doing his job,” said the alderman.

Olowan, who chairs the committee on laws, said the present status of the convention center makes the local government susceptible to cases stemming from its mismanagement.

“The contracts of the leases have not been confirmed, we can be sued for that,” Olowan said.

The alderman cited the operation of SMART Telecommunications in the convention center as well as the lack of order as a whole in the area as a basis for the call of change in management of the government owned building.

Olowan said now that the management and operations of the convention center is being put in the limelight and with the recent request of the legislative body to the office of the mayor to make public contracts of all leases, the council can move to confirm or deny existing occupants of the BCC.

Alhambra however is questioning Olowan’s statement saying “What is his benchmark of performance, does he know the state the BCC was in before I came in?”

Alhambra also said there is a trust fund for the BCC with P3 million which was not in place in the past.

“Before, the BCC was in a state of disrepair and had two utility workers, now we have eight,” Alhambra added.

Alhambra said he took the reins in management of the BCC in 2004 as an added responsibility to his designation as tourism officer, by law, the BCC is to be managed by the City Administrator’s office.

“Now, City Administrator Canilao has given us 100 trust [to manage the BCC].”

The BCC gained international prominence when it became the venue of the 1978 World Chess Championship series between two Russian grandmasters - Anatoly Karpov and Victor Korchnoi.

It was inaugurated by President Ferdinand Marcos during the opening of this championship match on July 17, 1978.

Alhambra said he has long been advocating for amendments governing BCC because original guidelines are outdated.

In 2004, the city used its P50 million share from BCDA to pay the down payment for the acquisition of the property but the previous city administrations failed to work on it until 2012 when the city used up a total of P317 million to fully pay its remaining obligations and interests to allow the local government to eventually own the property.

In March, Margie Bongait, Audit Team Leader of COA Baguio and Shalymar Garcia, Supervising Auditor of COA-Baguio, reported flaws in the management as well as operations of the BCC.

The Bongait report revealed the contract between the city government and leaseholders have not been authorized by the local council, which is a requirement to make valid all agreements in the area.

COA likewise noted there is no contract between the City Government and the occupants at the basement of the BCC to which Alhambra explained the basement of the BCC is uninhabitable because of dilapidation and sewer problems.

Parking at the BCC has also posed as problem and the COA said it stems from the noncompliance of the BAROVODA AND BCTAI, transport groups on terms and conditions of the existing agreement. The COA said both groups have exceeded the parking slots provided in the original agreement with both being provided 5 slots each but occupying 10 and 11 slots a piece.

COA also noted there is a non-collection of parking fees from the BCC which robs the city of revenue which can be used to improve the facility.
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