WHAT JUST HAPPENED. The Cebu City Council, on motion of Councilor Joel Garganera (Barug), Wednesday, January 26, requested again for information from Filinvest Land Inc. (FLI) regarding its share from the joint venture on a township project at South Road Properties (SRP).

The City Government in 2009 entered into a P25 billion joint venture agreement to develop City di Mare on a 40-hectare lot at SRP. City di Mare is complemented by a mixed-use project of the Filinvest Group on an SRP 19.2-hectare lot it acquired in absolute sale from the City.

That, after a similar City Council request last November 25, 2020, which was preceded by a request in June 2018 to allow inspection of Phase 2 of the project, which at the time had yet to start. Two letters, on May 14 and June 18, 2020, Filinvest/City di Mare had also not been answered, Garganera said then and told the Sanggunian again last Wednesday.

INITIAL MOVE WAS BIGGER. In its 2020 move, the Sanggunian decided that an ad hoc committee shall review two JVAs with huge business companies: the City di Mare deal with FLI and the Isla de la Victoria project on Kawit Island with Gokongwei-led Universal Hotels and Resorts Inc. (UHRI).

It is not publicly known what came out of the review, supposed to be under the Sanggunian thrust by then vice mayor Michael Rama to cure “defects” of big-ticket projects entered by the past administration. Mike Rama is now mayor and still to act on a number of advocacies he started when he presided over the City Council.

Garganera or any other councilor didn’t mention the Kawit project in the Sanggunian’s last session. On City di Mare, he pressed just for one information: whether there is a provision in the JVA that says the City will get 10 percent of the gross income even after the buildings are completed.

He didn’t talk anymore about his suspicion that the City was getting a bad deal from the joint venture with FLI. In that November 25, 2020 session, he told Archie Ygot, then the senior assistant vice president and general manager for Filinvest Visayas, “Alkanse kaayo mi, alkanse ang siyudad.” Garganera estimated then that the City should be getting P10 billion instead of the P2 billion for the period already covered at the time. He also wondered how the venture could provide “thousands of jobs as promised by then mayor Tomas Osmeña” when only medium-rise residential buildings were being built and why phase 1 was reported as completed when the number of buildings fell short of target.

Last Wednesday, Garganera also didn’t mention anymore about the earlier wish of the City Council to know how many open spaces are allocated.

[Related Explainer, 11/20/20: What Cebu City Council wants to know about city’s joint ventures with Filinvest and Gokongwei firm

SOLE REQUEST NOW. What Councilor Garganera wants is the answer to his question from way back 2018 up to 2020: Can the City still get a 10-percent share of the sales after being paid the minimum guarantee fee and the buildings are already finished under each phase? And, most important, is the provision included in the JVA signed by the FLI and the city mayor? (Edgardo Labella was acting mayor as Tomas Osmeña was then on medical leave.)

Garganera does not even require FLI officials anymore to appear before the Sanggunian, as the councilor did in 2020, when FLI’s Ygot briefed the City Council on the progress of City di Mare. A letter from FLI will suffice, Garganera told Vice Mayor Dondon Hontiveros who presided over the session.

COUNCILORS HAVEN’T SEEN THE JVA. It was apparent that most of the councilors haven’t seen the JVA with FLI. It was adopted years before the Batch of 2019. Councilor Eugenio Gabuya Jr. tucked into the motion the rider that the City Legal Office provide the Sanggunian with a copy. The city attorney’s office is in the same building or the same compound as the Sanggunian Secretariat. The contract is the best source of information and they haven’t bothered to check it out from the document itself.

Garganera must have seen a copy and probably didn't find the provision on sharing of sales that FLI officials reportedly assured is in the document.