By Jenina P. Ibañez, Reporter

THE properties of state firm National Development Co. (NDC), including those leased out at supposed disadvantageous terms, will not be sold but repackaged through long-term leases or joint ventures, the Trade secretary said on Wednesday.

“If we want it to package na JV (joint venture) rin kayo in the future with a real estate project, mag-benefit ang government much more. Hindi siguro ibebenta lang kasi you don’t benefit on the appreciation,” Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters on Wednesday.

(If we want to also package them in the future as a joint venture with a real estate project, the government will benefit much more. These are not likely to be sold outright because you don’t benefit on the appreciation.)

“If ever, [the government will enter into a] long-term lease or participate in a JV project that can extract more value,” he added.

Mr. Lopez made the statement after the Department of Finance (DoF) said earlier this month that it had found “onerous” provisions in the lease contract between NDC, an agency under the DTI, and Chevron Philippines, Inc. on an industrial park in San Pascual, Batangas. The DoF said the oil firm was paying lower-than-market value in rental fees.

The DTI had said the NDC board, which it chairs and has DoF as one of the members, had already approved the dissolution by 2021 of Batangas Land Co. (BLC), a joint venture corporation formed by NDC and Chevron Philippines in the ‘70s.

The NDC board also approved the consolidation of ownership of BLC lands in favor of the government.

Aside from the NDC contract, the government is reviewing several lease arrangements with the private sector. The BLC dissolution, for instance, will allow the government to take back its 120-hectare or 1.2-million-square-meter property leased to Chevron Philippines.

“The intention is for the government to consolidate and buy the shares of the partner Chevron,” Mr. Lopez said.

The buyout will be funded by the government though NDC, and a partial loan from a government bank may be considered.

“If (Chevron Philippines) wants the value of the property, they can continue operating them pero mag-negotiate sa new terms (but new terms should be negotiated),” he said.

Mr. Lopez said the government would make similar moves for properties in Las Piñas and Makati cities, where the state could also consolidate ownership and buy back shares.

Asked about the message that the government’s recent moves are sending to investors, Mr. Lopez said the observation was a non-issue.

Walang issue sa investors. We are honoring nga the contract. Tinapos na ‘yung company corporate life at saka magre-renegotiate doon sa balanse. Bago na yung structure, bago na ‘yung owner,” he said.

(There is no issue with investors. We are even honoring the contract. We ended the company corporate life and will re-negotiate the balance. The structure and the owner is new.)

He said there was no issue as long as investors are informed in advance to prepare for a review of their lease contract because of a change in ownership in the entity that they contracted with.

Hindi naman ‘yan unilaterally inire-revise or pinapalitan (The contract is not unilaterally revised or changed),” he added.

Chevron Philippines earlier said that it would maintain “open communication” with the government, which it described as an “important and valued partner, on this matter.”