WE COULD easily be enthralled by the eye-candy slide presentations of a futuristic Carbon Market by construction firm Megawide Construction Corp., currently doing the rounds supposedly to “clear the air” and sell the idea to journalists and the Cebu community.
The City Government and the firm signed on Jan. 11, 2021 a joint venture agreement (JVA) with Megawide, which has the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in its portfolio of megastructures in the country. The firm carries the mission to give our metropolises the First World look, an executive said.
In fairness to the developer, it had poured in a huge amount of imagination and creativity on a historic monolith, home of the century-old Warwick Barracks of the American soldiers, the early rooms of the Thomasite teachers and, yes, for the longest time the most vigorous trade center in Cebu. Over a century of oblivious increments consigned the market as an immovable fixture in the city’s landscape—the muck, the stink, the endless petty crimes and whatnots. The public seemed resigned to the idea that the market ironically is simply frozen in time.
So it took the winning bidder Megawide to reimagine the whole width of 7.8 hectares at a development cost of P5.5 billion. The construction is phased in such a way as to ensure that no vendor will be displaced, a condition that Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella set before anything took flight, a firm official said.
Megawide assured its select audiences recently that it had been careful in every step of the way, saying it had done its homework of communicating with the vendors’ groups and had listened to a whole spectrum of concerns and anxieties about the project. It isn’t easy rousing the old to see new things.
Well and good. There is less anxiety on the capability of Megawide to seriously carry out the task. Its track record is not something one can doubt.
The firm, however, incidentally is taking the blow from the lack of transparency on the part of its partner—the City Government. Many of the questions remain unanswered, and perhaps the City may find it healthy for the project to dedicate more efforts in clarifying the nature of the JVA, which spans 50 years, a period that will outlive the term of office of both public officials and the firm’s executives.
Two vendors’ groups, the Cebu City United Vendors Association and the Cebu Market Vendors Multi-purpose Cooperative and Ermita barangay officials questioned some provisions in the JVA, particularly the part that entitles Megawide to collect the revenues from the market operations. This, they say, is tantamount to “privatization.”
This is also the part that Megawide failed to adequately clarify in its meetings with journalists and stakeholders, probably since the task should have been the City Government’s.
We, therefore, ask that the City clarify the provisions in question—particularly on the revenue flow, the sharing scheme as the operations move forward. The City Council can ask the executive to clarify these in a public session.