Bacolod City Councilor Al Victor Espino said the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) Committee on Laws and Ordinances, which he chairs, and the Committee on Environment chaired by Councilor Claudio Puentevella may conduct another public hearing about the issue between the Bacolod Real Estate Development Corp. (Bredco) and Almana Property and Development Corp.
"We will see if we can include the committee report during the regular session on Wednesday (January 17)," Espino said Monday, January 15.
Bredco is asking for a Resolution of No Objection (Rono) from the City Council for an additional 25-hectare reclamation project which is being opposed by Almana.
"We already made a report, however, Almana registered its opposition. We are now in the public hearing to hear both sides. We hope to resolve the issue very soon for the benefit not only of the corporations involved but also the people using and benefiting the reclamation project and Bredco. We need to seek the middle ground after we hear the stand of the opponents," Espino said.
"Almana, during the hearing on Monday, pointed out that the SP's action could be at risk and may be subject to future court litigation in the event that we approve it. I am not bothered by it because I am very sure I understand my job as Rono is the first step. This is not binding to the city. Rono is given and after this, it will initiate the process of a reclamation project and will get the approval of the national government agencies concerned, especially the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources), and under the agency, is the Environmental Management Bureau, and that they need to defend the environmental impact as the assessment is needed and it will go through the approval of the Philippine Reclamation Authority. So that is the first step of a very long process,” he explained.
He said that it would then go back to the SP and the city government and they will craft a Tripartite Agreement between the proponent, the PRA, and the city of Bacolod.
Lawyer Joselito Bayatan, legal counsel of Bredco, said the public hearing Monday was the second time conducted by the SP since they sent an application for Rono in July 2023.
"This is an expanded project covered by the Comprehensive Revised Reclamation Agreement (CRRA). If the 25-hectare reclamation project pushes through, 10 percent of the open spaces will go to the city government plus an additional road network,” he said.
He added, "The point here is that Bredco has the existing reclamation right."
He claimed that the opposition of Almana is more personal.
"It said it has a contract with Bacolod Coastal Ventures Corp. and it is opposing the project because it is stated in their contract that there will be no reclamation. But the point here is that Bredco has the existing reclamation right. Coastal is Coastal and Bredco is Bredco. So legally speaking, they are two different entities. We have that Doctrine of two different entities. The two companies are separate and distinct. Not even the stockholders,” he stressed.
In his letter, he stated the two companies have a common president, the late Atty. Simplicio Palanca.
“Almana claimed that in the Deed of Sale, his purpose of buying the property is because it is facing the open sea and that the seller cannot reclaim. Who is the seller? Coastal Ventures cannot reclaim but Bredco is another entity that has the right to reclaim because before Almana bought the property from Coastal Ventures, Bredco has already the CRRA. BCVC is another Corporation. How will Bredco acknowledge the contract when we are not part of it?" Bayatan pointed out.
Lawyer Silverio Sorbito, legal counsel of APDC, on the other hand, said that the stand of Almana is that Rono should not be issued because it violates the rights of the company.
"Our basis is both the law and the contract executed between Almana and BCVC. Under the law, having the preferential right to develop or reclaim the area under dispute by Alamana because it is the owner of the adjacent lots, and when it was acquired in 2012, part of the contract was for the development of the area. That's why it was stated in the contract that there would be no reclamation activity in that area to be undertaken by Bredco,” he stressed.
He also said Alamana has an unsolicited proposal for the development of the area.*