|THE possibility of “repossessing” or “appropriating” for the use of Manila residents the 12-hectare “illegally-reclaimed” land project of the International Container Port Services, Inc. is an option now being considered by officials of the city of Manila.|
This was bared by city council presiding officer and Manila Vice Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso as the council members prepare their final report on the controversial project to Mayor Alfredo Lim.
A still fuming Moreno said Manila officials are incensed over the “affront” they suffered from ICTSI and its Korean partner, Hanjin Construction, when the joint venture partners proceeded with the reclamation project without even bothering to seek their approval.
It was Moreno, the classic “poor-boy-who-succeeded-in-life-thru-hard work,” who stumbled on the project by accident when he visited last February his former neighbors at Isla Puting Bato, which is among the poorest areas in Tondo.
“Nagulat na lang ako ng makita ko ang mahabang bakod na inilagay ng ICTSI/Hanjin at sa pagtatanong, nalaman ko na noon pa palang 2008 sinimulan ang proyekto ng wala man lang nakakaalam sa lokal na opisyales,” Moreno said.
“Mayroon na palang ‘independent republic of ICTSI’ sa sentro ng Maynila ng hindi namin alam. Hindi naman puwede ‘yan,” Moreno said.
When asked to explain, the ICTSI averred that permit and approval from the Manila city government is no longer needed for the P2.8 billion project as it was already covered by the authority of the Philippine Ports Authority.
“But when I pointed out to them that the PPA charter only covers port operation and not reclamation—which is what the project is—they were stumped and could not answer back,” Moreno said.
The ICTSI is majority owned by the Razon family, which is a close political and business ally of the past administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The company also operates the Manila International Container Port, which is adjacent to the now controversial reclaimed land.
Moreno noted that despite the project going on for the last two years, it was only this year that Hanjin decided to get a business permit. It paid P47,000 in taxes on a declared capital of P5 million.
“If they (ICTSI/Hanjin) are not treating us (city officials) with disrespect and as simpletons, how can a company with a declared capitalization of P5 million undertake a massive project costing at least P2.8 billion?” the vice mayor asked.
He noted that to date, ICTSI also continues to fail to pay the P21 million in contractor’s tax due the city government.
Aside from asking that the project be temporarily shelved for various irregularities, Moreno said appropriating the entire property is high on their agenda.
“Walang titulo ‘yan, that is considered now a part of the public domain which the local government can appropriate for its own needs,” Moreno said.