Like a family scouting for its first home, government should explore “rent-to-own” options for offices it rents to the tune of billions of pesos a year, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said.
“There should be a plan in which chosen government offices can graduate from being renters to owners,” Recto said in commenting on the P17.4 billion earmarked for property and equipment “rents and leases” in the 2018 national budget.
The amount is higher than the P13 billion allocated this year, and more than double the P8.4 billion spent last year.
Recto said that in the spirit of transparency and accuracy, the national budget should break down lease and rental payments into real estate and equipment.
“But what can’t be denied is that government is one of the biggest property lessees today,” Recto said. “Maraming forever tenants. Kasama na ang Senado kasi umuupa lang kami sa GSIS, which is our landlord,” he said.
Recto said many offices have stayed in the same buildings for so long, “that if you compute the rents they had paid, it would have been enough to finance the construction of their own.”
He, however, admitted that not all cases call for a shift from renting to owning, “but when feasible, government or government-owned banks should finance the construction.”
“Hindi rin naman kailangan na an agency will own the whole building, pwedeng ilang floors lang, basta hindi na uupa,” he said.
In regional centers, Recto said there should also be a plan to converge national government offices in one place.
“Kailangan may plano para sa regional government center, at doon ilalagay ang mga ahensya na walang sariling gusali. Pero doon sa meron ng sariling building, hindi na kailangan lumipat,” Recto said.
Regional centers, he said, should have their own convention and training facilities “because at present, billions of pesos are spent by agencies in booking hotels and resorts for their seminars.”
“Some hotels have become de facto government-subsidized enterprises,” Recto said.
Even departments in Metro Manila have been forced to disperse their bureaus and other units for lack of space in their central office, Recto said. “Pati sa mga departments, may diaspora din.”
“Ang nangyayari ngayon, kalat-kalat ang mga bureaus and offices ng isang departamento. Hindi lang yan nangyayari sa Maynila, pero sa lahat ng rehiyon,” Recto said.
Recto admitted that there are challenges in allocating funds for the construction of government office buildings when there are shortages in government hospital wards and police stations.
“So they will not compete for appropriations, baka pwedeng PPP model, or joint venture wherein government owns the land on which a building will be built by private groups, under a scheme beneficial to the government,” Recto said.