The prize that is Fort Bonifacio


Makati and the Binays score, in a now 20-year battle with Taguig over Fort Bonifacio, with the Court of Appeals ruling, Fort Bonifacio belongs to Makati.

Ownership is in dispute because of transactions and laws dating back to the early 1900s. Makati and Taguig have been battling over Fort Bonifacio since 1993, when Taguig asked a regional trial court to declare the 729-hectare fort as part of its territory.

That was two years before the government privatized half the fort, leading to its transformation into one of the most expensive... and tax-rich... parts of the country.

In a July 15 ruling released today, the Court of Appeals said Fort Bonifacio belongs to Makati both on the merits, and because some of Taguig's evidence is inadmissible.

According to the ruling, "presidential proclamation nos. 2475 (Marcos) and 518 (Aquino) did not ‘alter’ boundaries but instead confirmed that said area is under the jurisdiction of Makati."

It added: “Parcel 4 is adjacent to Makati and Pasig (not Taguig). Hence, proximity-wise, Makati's claim is more credible than that of Taguig's."

Mayor Lani Cayetano said Taguig will fight the ruling, though she didn't say whether the city will ask the court to reconsider or appeal to the Supreme Court. "We will fight to make sure the disputed land remains with Taguig," she said. "We are confident we will ultimately win this fight."

Fort Bonifacio is a rich and still growing source of tax revenue, a rich prize not just for Makati or Taguig, but for the Binays and Cayetanos, the families that run them and may someday run against each other.

But other groups have a stake in this decision as well. If one government -- Makati --controls both the central business district and Fort Bonifacio, developers led by Ayala Land, and businesses lose some leverage. They will no longer be able to lobby Makati or Taguig to make things easier for them, or cut or cap taxes and fees, with the unspoken threat of moving to the other city.

And it may create a political or bureaucratic situation for the Taguig civic center where SM Aura is located. Because while courts may deem the donation of the land to the Taguig government as legal and valid despite BCDA objections, it would be a Taguig-owned property within Makati.

Like a foreign embassy. Or West Berlin.

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