January 26, 2011

Money woes may spur QI property dev't

(The old pulmonary hospital on the QI property, circa 1938, according to its facade. Photo copyright held by Stella Arnaldo.)

THE Quezon Institute (QI) property is not for sale.

That’s according to some officials of the Philippine Tuberculosis Society Inc. (PTSI), which operates and manages QI. PTSI has been at the forefront of the anti-TB campaign in the country since 1910.

But sources in the PTSI said the organization is looking at a possible “co-development” of the property with a real-estate firm.

Talk has been rife among the tight-knit community of Filipino heritage conservationists that PTSI had already sealed a deal in December 2010 to sell the property to Ayala Land Inc. (ALI).

This has been denied by some ALI and PTSI officials, however.

Jorge Marco, ALI head for corporate communications, told the BusinessMirror that no sale has been finalized. “I’m sure, when appropriate, we’ll make the proper disclosures,” he said. But he confirmed ongoing “talks or discussions” between ALI and PTSI about the QI property.

For her part, PTSI executive director Elizabeth Cadena said, “[the deal with Ayala Land] is not true.” Asked if there were any negotiations ongoing with ALI, she expressed her displeasure at the question by hastily showing this reporter out of her office at the QI. She refused to further answer inquiries, and merely wrinkled her mouth and shrugged her shoulders when asked who exactly this reporter could direct her questions to with regard to the issue.

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) has said the sale of the QI property or improvements to be made therein have to be approved by the government agency, as per the new Heritage Law. National Artist Juan F. Nakpil designed its main building, which houses the PTSI offices. (See story “QI deal needs historical body’s OK” in the BusinessMirror, January 12, 2011.)

(PTSI executive director Elizabeth Cadena - the dragon lady who shooed me out of her office. Photo from PTSI web site.)

The 6.5-hectare property along E. Rodriguez Avenue, barangay Tatalon, Quezon City, is worth anywhere from P2.3 billion to P5 billion, based on Bureau of Internal Revenue zonal values, and the market price of commercial real-estate developments in said area.

In a separate interview, a member of the PTSI board affirmed that Ayala Land was keen on the property but so are “other organizations and real- estate developers. There are certain arrangements we’re looking at, but we’re not selling the whole thing. We will use the real property the best way we can.”

The board member added that there has also been another proposal from another real-estate firm for “co-development” of the QI property which the board is considering, “but nothing has been finalized.” The board member declined to reveal the identity of the other developer.

The board member added that PTSI is “keeping our options open [regarding the property], but we’re not going to sell. It’s our mission to help treat TB….We don’t want to lose our primary resource for TB control.” The TB problem in the Philippines has yet to be totally licked as cases now involve resistant strains “that are very difficult to control,” the board member said.

An official of the PTSI who requested anonymity, likewise, told the BusinessMirror: “There are many who are interested in the QI property but we’re not selling. We only sold [a portion] to Puregold because we had to. We had precarious finances then; employees were going on strike because we couldn’t pay their salaries.” There are about 100-plus employees at QI.

Asked whether PTSI’s finances were now back in the black, thus the organization’s decision to hold off on selling, the official said, “we always have negative finances. Funding support for [our anti-TB campaign and treatments], such as the subsidy from the PCSO [Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office] have been reduced.”

While there are foreign funds that support PTSI’s anti-TB projects, as well as government support, the official said these were still not enough to address the TB problem in the country. Keeping the property and raising funds through it could help PTSI continue its anti-TB projects, the official indicated.

(National Artist Architect Juan F. Nakpil also designed the UP admininstration building in Diliman, QC. Photo from http://www.mediabd.com)

Meanwhile, a source in ALI said that instead of purchasing the QI property, the real-estate firm can also go into a “joint development” with the PTSI. This means ALI can lease the property from PTSI and use the rest of the lot to build condominiums, a mall, offices and other commercial establishments.

Ayala Land has a similar venture with the University of the Philippines for the UP-Ayala Land Technohub along Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City. The technohub—home to business-process outsourcing offices as well as restaurants—occupies 20 hectares, but the entire UP North Science Technology Park is 37.5 hectares. Another codevelopment project between ALI and UP is for the university’s property along Katipunan Road, also in Quezon City.

ALI has been eyeing the QI property for a mixed-use development project. The main building of QI was designed by National Artist architect Juan F. Nakpil in the 1930s. The other buildings such as the adjacent pulmonary hospital was built in 1938, according to a marker on its façade. The building which housed the PCSO was also built around the same time, as per the NHCP.

As such, the buildings and their environs are automatically protected from any unauthorized sale or renovations as per Republic Act 10066. If found guilty, violators will be fined not less than P200,000, or jailed not less than 10 years.

On its web site, the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) said QI “followed a stately and symmetrical design concept. A grand avenue leads to the two-story main building accentuated by strong Art Deco influences and geometric details.”

The UAP web site added that Nakpil was born in Quiapo, Manila, in 1899, the only son of composer Julio Nakpil and Gregoria de Jesus, the widow of Andres Bonifacio. He studied architecture at the Fontainebleau School of Fine Arts in Paris, and received a master’s degree in Architecture from Harvard University. Considered the “Dean of Filipino Architects,” he also designed the “1937 International Eucharistic Congress altar and rebuilt and enlarged the Quiapo Church in 1930, adding a dome and a second belfry to the original design.”

Nakpil’s other major works include the Geronimo de los Reyes Building, Magsaysay Building, Rizal Theater, Capitol Theater, Captain Pepe Building, Manila Jockey Club, Rufino Building, Philippine Village Hotel, University of the Philippines Administration and University Library, and the reconstructed Rizal house in Calamba, Laguna.

(My story was originally published in the BusinessMirror on Jan. 12, 2011.)

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