For sale

"Locsin said those behind the sale of our Japan properties are invoking the plight of our poor veterans but in reality may only be after the kickbacks"

It is good that Foreign Affairs Secretary TeddyBoy Locsin has opposed the bid of some quarters to sell the Philippines’ four real estate properties in Japan. Located in prime locations in Tokyo and Kobe, these properties were acquired as part of World War II reparations immediately after the end of the war.

Likening the proposed sale to “another World War II attack...a second Pearl Harbor perpetrated by Filipinos on our own patrimony,” Locsin said those behind the sale are invoking the plight of our poor veterans but in reality may only be after the kickbacks from the sale.

The Philippine government acquired these four properties in Tokyo and Kobe under the war reparation agreement with Japan on May 9, 1956. This, after years of negotiations and only after we invoked the horrors and devastation which visited the country during four years of Japanese occupation. The most prized of them is the 3179-square-metes Roppongi property in Tokyo, one of the most expensive piece of real estate in the crowded Japanese capital. This has been eyed by a host of Filipino buccaneers and Japanese developers, to be disposed of either by sale or long-term lease just a few years after then-President Corazon Aquino took over Malacanang.

In 1989, for some unexplained reason, the Aquino administration tried to sell it for $225 million, or nearly P6 billion at the time, with a big chunk of the purchase price reportedly going to payment of taxes to the Japanese government. It was the late Vice President Salvador Laurel who was already out of government at that time who petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the sale of the property emphasizing it was “priceless” as it was a “monument to the bravery and sacrifice of the Filipino people in the face of an invader.”

On Feb. 20, 1990, the High Tribunal issued a permanent restraining order and ruled that any sale of the property required a law passed by Congress. “It is indeed true,”the Supreme Court said, “that the Roppongi property is valuable not so much because of the inflated prices fetched by real property in Tokyo but more so because of its symbolic value to all Filipinos—veterans and civilians alike... whether or not the Roppongi and related properties in Japan will eventually be sold is a policy determination where both the President and Congress must concur.”

The three other war reparation properties which were the subject of continuing attempts at disposal include:

The 2,489.96 sq.m.-Nampeidai property at 11-24 Nampeidai-machi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

The 764.72 sq.m.-Kobe commercial property at 63 Naniwa-cho, Kobe

The Kobe residential property at 1-980-2 Obanoyama-cho, Shinohara, Nada-ku, Kobe.

Locsin emphasized that in addition to the fact that these properties are considered patrimonial and should not be the subject of commerce there are a number of legal hurdles which have to be met if ever the same are to be touched for any reason at all. For example, the Roponggi property—whose first floor and part of the basement are currently used as offices of the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo—is already subject to the 1997 Development Agreement and would only be reverted to the Philippine government in 2047.

On the other hand, the Naniwa-cho and Obanoyama-cho properties in Kobe prefecture could not be sold due to the 2005 Service and Development Agreement (SDA), which provides that the possession of property will only revert to the Philippine government in 2058. Too, the Nampeidai property is the subject of a pending case before the Supreme Court.

In addition to these properties, Locsin disclosed that he has turned down all proposals for the sale of government properties abroad during the pandemic and maybe until the end of this administration’s term. There are more than a dozen other prized properties acquired by the government over the years which may fetch skyrocket prices once the global economic situation stabilizes including those in Washington D.C., and London, among others.

In a stinging pushback after being told that aside from using the “veterans cause” as cover for this contemptible operations the buccaneers and their partners in government also put forward the need to augment the funds for PhilHealth and even the Department of Health to cover the possible shortfall in our anti-Covid 19 response efforts, Locsin said government should instead sell “corrupt and incompetent” health officials in slave markets to raise funds to fight COVID-19.”

Said Locsin: “To raise funds to fight [COVID-19] don’t sell Japan properties. Sell corrupt and incompetent health officials in the slave markets of North Africa. Although nearly worthless if we sell them all we’ll raise [is] a bit,” If such is not enough, he added, “we should sell the properties of the departments of budget, treasury, health above all for its lousy response to [COVID-19].”

Indeed,it is a sad commentary of our times that the government is thinking of disposing prized possessions in the guise of providing funds for otherwise laudable causes which would have been unthinkable not too long ago. More than that, there are also talks of going through another privatization of the remaining revenue generating assets still in government control such as PAGCOR and PCSO, to name just two in the list, all in the name of “fund augmentation” for various “priority programs.”

Why should we go that route all over again despite our very sad experience with the fire sales of acquired assets and disastrous privatization efforts during the first Aquino administration and through the Ramos years as evidenced by the PCGG sell offs and, of course, the water, electricity, bases and other privatization operations? But that will be another story. For now, all we can say is “Mahiya kayo.”

Topics: Jonathan Dela Cruz , Foreign Affairs Secretary TeddyBoy Locsin , Philippines , real estate properties , Tokyo , Kobe , Japan
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