GSIS chief maintains unpaid rent by hotel

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CORRECTING his previous figures, Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) President and General Manager Jesus Clint O. Aranas on Monday said Sofitel Philippine Plaza owed the government agency about P101 million in unpaid rent for occupying two government lands not covered by the lease contract.

“Based on our computation, they owe us P101,574,406.46 from 1993 to 2016…for 7,393 square meters. It’s almost a hectare of prime property,” he said in a press briefing at the GSIS headquarters in Pasay City.

“Do you know the value of this lot is almost P800 million? And to be able to utilize this lot for free is grossly disadvantageous to the fund, to the contributors and it sends a bad message to the people that this government tolerates such things,” he added.

Mr. Aranas earlier said in a radio interview that Sofitel Philippine Plaza has not paid rent worth P80 million for two parcels of land called Lot 19 and Lot 41, which are adjacent to the hotel.

In a statement issued over the weekend, hotel operator Philippine Plaza Holdings Inc. (PPHI) maintained that it has “religiously complied” with its contractual obligations to GSIS, saying that Mr. Aranas was “probably misinformed.”

GSIS said it has issued a notice to vacate last April 13 to PPHI regarding the two lots owned by the government agency.

Mr. Aranas pointed out that GSIS’ existing lease contract with the PPHI only covered Lots 30-A and 30-B, where Sofitel Philippine Plaza is located. Meanwhile, Lots 19 and 41 were excluded in the contract but the luxury hotel continued to use the area as a tennis court, employees’ eatery, and a site for a Japanese restaurant, among others.

He added that he has already asked officials of Sofitel management to pay the unpaid rentals as early as January during their courtesy call with him.

Without mentioning names, Mr. Aranas further said GSIS would also go after 59 other big-ticket properties which he said have also underpaid or unpaid rentals to the government agency.

“We will start with Sofitel first. And this is not the end of this….I prioritize big ticket items because they’re commercially run (and have) a capacity to pay,” he said.

Asked about his plans to pursue accountability within the agency for allowing unpaid or underpaid rentals, Mr. Aranas said his first priority was on rental collection instead of investigating previous GSIS officials, noting that previous general managers had attempted to collect rent.

“I think collection is first and topmost priority list. Then I will make an investigation,” he said.

Sought for comment, Sofitel referred to its statement over the weekend, adding that as “per (its) legal counsel, nothing new was raised today.” — Camille A. Aguinaldo