Court junks bid to nullify JVA to redevelop Carbon Market

·4 min read

A LOCAL court has denied the motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by various vendor groups and taxpayers in the complaint for nullity of the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between Cebu City and Megawide Construction Corp. for the redevelopment of the Carbon Public Market.

Regional Trial Court Judge Soliver C. Peras of Branch 10 denied the motion for the issuance of a TRO for the failure of the vendors groups to substantiate their cause of action.

The court's order came after 12 taxpayers and 12 vendors groups filed a civil complaint on Aug. 25, 2021, for nullity of the JVA Contract and related documents with a Prayer for a TRO and/or writ of preliminary injunction and Mandamus.

Among the plaintiffs were the Carbonhanong Alyansa alang sa Reporma ug Bahandianong Ogma sa mga Nanginabuhi (Carbon), Movement against Carbon Market Privatization, Sanlakas, Akbayan Party-List and Cebu Urban Poor Women’s League.

Impleaded in the complaint are former mayor Edgar Labella, then Acting City Mayor Michael Rama and six other city officials, Megawide Construction Corp., Louie Ferrer, Edgar Saavedra and Cebu2World Development Inc.

On Jan. 11, 2021, Cebu City and Megawide entered into a joint venture agreement for the redevelopment of the Carbon Market.

The redevelopment comes in three phases, the development of Carbon Market Unit 1 and 2 and Compaña Maritima (Phase 1), development of the Freedom Park (Phase 2) and development of Sitio Bato and Unit 3 (Phase 3.)

The vendors claimed the invalidity and nullity of the Build-Operate-Transfer contract disguised as a JVA and that Megawide should be prohibited from recouping its costs on the project.

The vendors, in their application for the issuance of a TRO, argued that failure to protect the vendors, and informal workers and settlers in the Carbon Market area could amount to a violation of the social justice and human rights clauses of the Constitution.

However, the court was not convinced by the claims of the vendors that there were grave and irreparable injuries to be prevented.

The court said general claims of loss of livelihood and mental being are natural and logical effects if the plaintiffs have a factual right that has been aggrieved due to the Joint Venture Agreement entered into by the defendants.

The vendors, the court said, were not able to show that they would suffer grave and irreparable injury if the project will be implemented, or public interest is at stake if the Carbon Project will not be stayed.

The court also said there was doubt on the plaintiffs’ authority to represent the real parties in interest.

The court order was dated Oct. 26, 2021, but SunStar Cebu received a copy of it from Cebu City Hall only on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022.

Megawide, in a statement, said it had yet to receive any official documents from the court on the matter.

"Nevertheless, we welcome this development and remain committed to ensuring we meet project milestones on time, for the benefit of vendors and the community. This project is vital to helping stakeholders recover from Typhoon Odette and the Covid health crisis," Megawide said.

“We continue to assure our stakeholders and the public that rates will remain the same as current market rates, if not more affordable. All registered vendors, as listed by the City Government of Cebu, will also be accommodated,” the statement added.

Megawide also said consultations are continuing for vendors, karumateros, and nearby communities, and that preparations are in place for the opening of the Interim Market Building (previously known as Unit 2) later this month.

In terms of operations, Megawide said they were back on track immediately after the Dec. 16, 2021 typhoon, as the two areas it was working on (Bagsakan, which is the open air location, and the Interim Market Building, which is under construction) were undamaged. Vendors in Bagsakan were able to sell the day after Odette hit Cebu.

Megawide said the drainage improvements it implemented helped ensure there was no flooding in the Carbon area.

Mayor Rama said with the court settling the case, construction of the new Carbon could now proceed. He thanked Megawide for listening to his suggestions.

"Now the court of justice has spoken; therefore, there will be a message that the project has to proceed. But from my end, Megawide is also sensitive about my concerns," Rama said.

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