Rent to lose

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - October 28, 2020 - 12:00am

According to my Christian Community sources, a well-known billboard or outdoor advertising company that has been in existence for nearly 82 years and has served both the business and Christian community so well may ultimately “have to bite the bullet” and close shop. The reason is that many property owners from whom the billboard company rents space to put up billboards insist on sticking to pre-pandemic contractual provisions in spite of the fact that many companies that have shifted to outdoor advertising to save costs have all pulled back or pulled out in these hard and dry times.

In like manner, I recently witnessed the final days of the branch of a well-known restaurant located in an upscale hospital pull the plug as well as everything removable from their space due to very poor sales. Even a well-known chain of Filipino fast-food that specializes in grilled specialties has slowly but surely been pulling out of their “Rent To Lose” situation. In the pre-pandemic times, a friend of mine said he closed down all his mall locations because he did not want to effectively be an employee of the mall. But in today’s business environment, locators claim they can’t even take home a salary for themselves.

We have clearly reached a point when government has to decide to step in just to save business establishments and brands until better times or look away and end up with an even bigger nightmare of closures, lay-offs and bankruptcy left and right that will make it harder for the economy to recover. The government officials I’ve managed to talk to on the matter have all folded their hands, saying rentals are all private contractual agreements and there is a need for Congress to step in and legislate some sort of emergency legislation so that rentals can be adjusted and imposed by government when a national emergency takes place and there is a need to preserve or protect the continued existence of small businesses. I just hope that some of the members of Congress and the Senate who were businessmen or tenants in their past life would spend some time on such a bill that would deal with landlords and property owners who cannot see the big picture of saving businesses. If we save a business we save a tenant and the property owner insures his rental collection.

The same law should also deal with the absurd and greed driven practice of property owners who impose 3 to 5 percent rent increase annually. As I have often quoted my wife Karen: Do Filipinos get automatic 5 percent salary increase annually?!

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I am beginning to sound like a “sirang plaka” or “broken record” as I keep inserting during my AGENDA interviews for government officials and the IATF to do something about putting a price cap or control for COVID-19 RT-PCR testing. I spoke with Secretary Silvestre Bello III of the Department of Labor and Employment and he confirmed that there were 7,000 OFWs who were stuck in hotels all over the country waiting to be tested for COVID or waiting for test results. After about a month, the good news is that number has gone down to 5,200. The bad news is that they are stuck in Lalaland waiting for the Philippine Red Cross to restart testing now that the Department of Justice says PhilHealth is good to go and may pay PRC.

Even Secretary Bello lamented the high price for COVID-19 testing and also shared that his colleague in the Cabinet, Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat, has been pushing for the rationalization and price control of COVID tests because it is a major requirement for inter-island tourists.

Ironically, the DOH only talked about recommending a price cap ONCE and the IATF, if they have received the recommendation of the DOH, has not acted on the matter. Whoever is at fault should be fired by President Duterte because the delay, the health risk and the financial impact on thousands of Filipinos is tantamount to graft and corruption. It is one thing to be slow, but when millions of pesos are being raked in as profit during a pandemic, those who fail to act are either guilty by omission or commission. This is just one of the many possible acts of corruption that President Duterte was speaking of yesterday.

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Some people are wondering where President Duterte is coming from after making two consecutive comments about corruption in government agencies. In fact, PRRD upped the ante in his latest speech when he essentially cast a wide net calling for investigations on corruption in the entire government. If you are one of those wondering, bear in mind that we are going into the final stretch of the Duterte administration, the next six to 12 months will be crucial for people thinking of how to insure their future once they are out of a job in this administration or are no longer within the network of favor. Whether they are mere political appointees, politicians or businessmen, there will be people who will want to make sure that whatever deal they want “is in the bag” just in case there is a completely new administration in 2022.

If you listened carefully to the speech of President Duterte yesterday morning, it eerily sounded as if the President was making it categorically clear that he has no part in any deals or agreements being entered into by his administration. He allegedly has not signed any agreement, contract or document that involves projects with a financial aspect. Obviously the President wants to leave office looking and perceived as squeaky-clean. Ironically, the same speech almost hints or suggests that he can’t guarantee the same for others in his government. Looks like washing hands now goes beyond health protocols. If Pontius Pilate could do it, why not PRRD!

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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