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Monday, April 22, 2019

Ex-Tieza chief questioned over Paskuhan Village

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability on Wednesday, August 30, questioned former Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) head Mark Lapid on his role on the sale of the Philippine Christmas (Paskuhan) Village to Premier Central Incorporated.

Lapid attended the hearing after the House committee’s invitation. In his opening statement, Lapid said that the sale “was to the best interest of the government and that the privatization of the facility was best option recommended by the consultants of Tieza.”

Cebu Third District Representative Gwendolyn Fiel Garcia, however, questioned Lapid for selling Paskuhan when there were clear provisions under Republic Act 9593 on the right of first refusal.

Lapid said that the deliberation of the sale was a majority decision by the board.

“I did air my sentiments as coming from Pampanga during our ‘off the record session’ but it was a majority decision,” Lapid said.

Garcia said that she was surprised that Lapid, who once served as Pampanga governor, would agree to the sale of the cultural property. She asked if Lapid believed that Paskuhan village is a cultural property, to which Lapid said that “he is not qualified to make such an evaluation of Paskuhan.”

1-SAGIP Representative Rodante Marcoleta also asked Lapid if they followed the Commission on Audit Circular 86-264 that set guidelines on the divestment of assets of government-owned corporations.

Marcoleta said that with the non-compliance of the circular, the Solicitor General could now act on the matter. The representative from the Solicitor General said that if the House would request to be represented to have the case nullified, the House committee may move to do so.

Asked for comment after the hearing, Lapid said that he welcomes the move of the House committee, adding that it would be the proper courts that would determine the best interest of government with regards to the said property.

“There is no treachery here. I welcome the move of the committee and it would be better if the case would reach the proper courts,” Lapid said.

The committee, chaired by Surigao del Sur Second District Representative Johnny Pimentel, is expected to come up with an action on the sale after Pampanga Third District Representative Aurelio “Dong” Gonzales, Jr. filed House Resolution 654 that called for the investigation of the sale. The same committee requested the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Registry of Deeds not to proceed with the processing of the transfer while the committee hearing is ongoing.

The Christmas village theme park, later renamed to Hilaga, was sold to SMDC by Tieza for P939 million as part of its asset privatization thrust.

Paskuhan is one of the 13 government-owned properties under Tieza which have been eyed for privatization. It was included in the Tier 1 of non-revenue generating assets which include Agoo Playa Hotel in La Union, and Matabungkay and Talisay in Batangas.

The Hilaga property was part of the land owned by the Lazatin family. In 1989, it was reportedly sold to the government.
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