The Baguio City Council, in its regular Session last Monday, urged the National Power Corporation (NPC) to move for the dismissal of the case filed by the latter for the recovery of the property at North Sanitary Camp Barangay including a claim for back rentals once the deed of transfer is finally executed.
The case docketed as Civil Case No. 6801 was filed in 2018 and is still pending before the Regional Trial Court Branch 61.
In 2021, the city government and Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) Corporation agreed to execute a memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the purchase of the said property worth P36,046,003.80 as well as a deed of transfer and conveyance.
By virtue of Republic Act No. 9136 (Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 or EPIRA Law), PSALM Corporation was created to take ownership of all existing generation assets, liabilities and Independent Power Producer (IPP) contracts, real estate and all other disposable assets of the NPC, among others, and to manage the orderly sale, disposition, and privatization of said assets.
Included in the former assets of NPC that were transferred to PSALM are the 10 parcels of land at North Sanitary Camp Barangay with a lot area of 6,332 sqm. more or less which are covered by transfer certificates of title (TCT).
Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda and Atty. Melchor Rabanes, Asst. City Legal Officer, mentioned three court orders from the RTC stating that the NTC would move for the dismissal of the case once the transfer of the property to the city government is finalized. The court orders were archived in February 2022.
According to Tabanda, the city council’s stand is that, once a MOA with PSALM and a deed of transfer have been executed, the case shall be dismissed and the claim of NPC for back rentals shall be waived.
The councilor asserted that NPC is no longer “a party in interest” since all NPC properties including the property in question have been transferred to PSALM.
NPC lawyers Fritz Sumayden and Alden Gian said PSALM President and CEO Irene Joy Besido-Garcia, in a letter, had instructed NPC to pursue the litigation regarding the issue on back rentals and allow the court to decide on the matter.
Earlier, Besideo-Garcia also wrote the city government a letter stating that the agreed price of the property is only for the purchase of the land and does not cover NPC’s claim for back rentals and that the sale of the property is without prejudice to the case of NPC against the city government.
The NPC representatives added that the issue on settlement of the back rentals should be included in the discussion regarding the sale of the property.
The city government took possession of the property in 1975. The NPC is entitled to collect from the city government more or less P17 million as back rentals covering the period from 1975 to 2001, the NPC representatives claimed.
The Baguio Sewage Treatment Plant (BSTP) is located within the disputed property. According to PSALM, it is the most ideal location of the BSTP and that it is crucial for the city government to keep the sewage treatment plant operational as it serves the entire City of Baguio.
In his letter dated February 11, 2022, Mayor Benjamin Magalong urged the city council to quickly act on the matter as the delay in the payment of the mutually agreed price between the city government and the PSALM may have some “cost implications.”
“This has been dragging on for over a decade, and now is the most opportune time to put to rest the matter of ownership of the land, so that we can already focus on our urban wastewater management,” Magalong stated.
The Baguio City Council passed a resolution directing all parties concerned (PSALM, NPC, and the city government) to “sit down together” to settle the matter and come up with a proposed compromise agreement within 15 days from receipt of the resolution. -Jordan G. Habbiling