NEGROS Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said on Thursday that Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) will start the development of the 7.7-hectare properties it purchased and leased from the province in November this year.

Marañon said that both the sale and lease part of the properties will actually not be affected by the latest case filed by SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI) against them seeking to nullify the sale and lease contract before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Bacolod City.

"Ayala will continue the development," Marañon said.

The governor said that Ayala Land revealed its plan to start the development after the City Council of Bacolod approved last Wednesday the conversion – through an amendment of a zoning ordinance from institutional to commercial – of the Capitol properties covered by the deed of conditional sale and lease contract.

Of the 7.7 hectares, Ayala Land purchased 3.6587 hectares and leased 4.0481 hectares. The property giant has proposed the establishment of a P6-billion integrated mixed-use civic and commercial district project in these properties.

Last month, SMPHI through its legal counsel Edgar Ryan San Juan filed a civil case for the declaration of nullity of the deed of conditional sale and contract of lease between the Province of Negros Occidental and ALI.

The RTC Branch 48 has ordered Maranon, in his official capacity as governor and chairman of the Committee on Awards and Disposal of Real Properties, to answer the case in 15 days after receiving the summons.

Also included in the case are the committee members, including Third District Board Member Patrick Lacson, Assistant Provincial Legal Officer Mary Ann Manayon-Lamis, Provincial Treasurer Nilda Generoso, Provincial General Services Officer Lucille Pines, Provincial Assessor Merlita Caelian, Provincial Administrator Enrique Pinongan, Provincial Engineer Ernie Mapa, the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, and the ALI.

The governor described the latest SM Prime case as redundant and sort of a forum shopping as the same issues are being raised.

Lamis, who said that the Provincial Legal Office is already preparing their answer to the case, also noted that the allegations are the same, saying that it emanates from the same transaction pertaining to the July 7, 2011 failed bidding undertaken by the province on the 7.7-hectare properties.

“We already have perfected the contracts and besides, there is no injunction or temporary restraining order against the province or ALI pertaining to the implementation of the contract," Lamis said.

She added that the province has also secured a favorable decision from the Commission on Audit regarding the legitimacy of the deed f conditional sale and contract of lease which is final and executory.