Carvajal: High-and-mighty bluster

No way people who know enough of this prosperous city-state can object to Cebu City becoming like it. I myself, having toured it and known its stable financial condition, could easily dream with Mayor Michael Rama of a Singapore-like Cebu City.

Instead, however, I am smarting from his utterly galling pronouncement for us to leave Cebu City who take potshots at what he has tagged as the bright star in his political firmament. I don’t know about others but my misgivings of this vaunted dream spring from two conscientious objections.

One, Mayor Rama does not say what he means by Singapore-like. He does not specify what features or features of his dream city he wants Cebu City to acquire. Without specifics, he can justifiably be suspected of playing to people’s sparse knowledge of Singapore’s lofty socio-economic status... in aid perhaps of his dream of reelection?

Cebu City cannot possibly attain the demographic and economic essentials of Singapore. It is a city-state; Cebu is merely a city. Its per capita GDP (gross domestic product) in 2021 was 72,794 USD; that of the Philippines was a paltry 3,549 USD. 1.41 SD (Singapore Dollar) buys one USD while the Philippine Peso buys only 0.017 of a US Dollar.

How can anybody possibly object to dreaming of Singapore’s outstanding economic figures? But the question is, are they attainable, by the Philippines even, in Mayor Rama’s short term of office? Obviously not. This, therefore, cannot be what the good mayor means by Singapore-like.

Apart from this, however, Singapore is reputed to be a squeaky clean and disciplined city. This could be what Mayor Rama wants for Cebu City. Well and good, but that takes me to my second objection—Mayor Rama’s overweening way of getting Cebu City to become Singapore-like in the only sense it can be, disciplined and squeaky clean.

Mayor Rama cannot modernize Carbon Public Market by summarily displacing small vendors who eke out a living in it. He must assure them of a place in the new Carbon and work out a transition with minimal earnings reduction.

Nor can he clean up Cebu City’s riverbanks, even if for a good purpose, by simply ordering the demolition of settler homes. He must provide for a suitable relocation site and moving expenses.

Both informal settlers and ambulant vendors are human beings who deserve a fair shake especially from those they elected to serve them. They have rights, opinions and feelings that some Cebu City officials must learn to respect.

Development is not modern buildings, orderly traffic, clean markets and landscaped river banks. That too, but development is mainly raising the standard of living of the city’s people, especially the marginalized. Instead, Mayor Rama is doing it the other way around. He modernizes Cebu City to attract big business and rich tourists at the expense of small people.

Mayor Mike Rama’s vision of a Singapore-like Cebu City is plain high-and-mighty bluster.