EXPLAINER: Rama says talks are on with Megawide to ‘cure defects’ of P5.5-B Carbon Market project. Vendors, settlers air gripes to City Council. Port Authority opposes use of land.

·5 min read

WHAT JUST HAPPENED. [1] Persons representing some groups of Carbon market vendors and “informal settlers” of Sitio Bato and Lutawlutaw poured out -- in the Wednesday, November 10, Cebu City Council session -- their woes over the P5.5-billion Carbon Market modernization project.

2. The Sanggunian wanted to know what happened to the proposed memorandum of agreement (MOA), which Vice Mayor Michael Rama, as a member, proposed and the City Council approved last September 1 to correct the defects of the joint venture agreement (JVA) with Megawide Construction Corp. and Cebu2World Development. Minority Floorleader Nestor Archival moved that now Acting Mayor Rama be asked to shed light on the issue. The Sanggunian agreed and minutes later, lo, Rama who was in the building appeared personally and told them about the series of talks with Megawide/Cebu2World.

3. The Cebu Port Authority last November 3 reminded the City Government of its opposition to the use of a portion of the site, the Compania Maritima property, as part of the Carbon Market development. It is illegal, CPA said, and done despite its objection and the court litigation over it.

THE CRY: WHERE’S THE MOA? The councilors wanted to know what happened to the Sept. 1 MOA and what the mayor has done about it. One vendors group representative asked in the Sanggunian’s November 10 session, as demolition in Carbon continued, “Asa man diay ang MOA?”

The sobering reminder for everyone was that: The JVA, the contract, was a done deal. No provision can be changed in it without the consent of both parties or by court litigation. And, yes, the City Council’s September 1 MOA, which Rama himself proposed as a Sanggunian member, was nothing but a proposal to Megawide/Cebu2World.

RAMA REPORT ON NEGOTIATIONS. Acting Mayor Rama told the councilors that “curative” talks already started, on November 9, the day before the November 10 session; then will continue, on November 18 and November 19, in which proposals and counter-proposals will be made until, “hopefully,” a supplemental agreement may be made.

Rama repeated that his and Labella’s administration will stick to the policy it announced during the 2019 election campaign, namely, to review and “cure” past defective contracts but won’t seek their rescission or annulment.

A “hopeful direction” of the developers, Rama said, was that they already agreed to the “retention” of the iconic Cebu Freedom Park, obviously the site and name but not the forum as it actually was.

RESTLESS IN CARBON. The new surge of unrest -- indicated by the sad tales the three persons representing the vendors and one for Bato and Lutawlutaw settlers -- is caused by their “uncertain situation” and being allegedly shut out from discussion and activities about their relocation.

The vendors talked about being deprived of their means of livelihood (a guard-rail allegedly is keeping customers away) and being not included in the list of stallholders. They complained of discrimination for expressing their dissent to a “privatized” Carbon.

It is apparent that the complainers are not told or don’t know how demolition and relocation are being done. They are ignorant of the basic conditions of the JVA that affect them, particularly on who are accommodated and who are not, confused by the blanket promise that every vendor will get his or her stall or vending place.

Informal settlers of sitios Bato and Lutawlutaw aren’t told and don’t know yet where they’d live, their rep said. The local government reportedly handles that aspect under the JVA.

HOW MANY ARE COMPLAINING? Neither the councilors nor the acting mayor knew the actual figures. Councilor Eugenio Gabuya Jr., using the number earlier given by vendors heads to the City Council, said, “about 6,500.”

Thus, among the clutch of motions, Minority Floorleader Nestor Archival filed and the Sanggunian adopted was an invitation to a number of vendors groups and allied organizations to submit lists of their members doing business in Carbon and their respective situation on stall allocations. The City Council has to ascertain how the vendors are being treated under the project and how many are actually dissatisfied with what’s going on.

That list was supposed to have been drawn up and considered before the City Council would approve the JVA. But then the councilors, Councilor Gabuya reminded his colleagues, last Wednesday, “we didn’t even read the document when we passed it.”

LAWSUITS OVER PROJECT. Aside from the complaint filed last August 25 -- against Rama, Labella and other city officials and officers of Megawide and Cebu2World, seeking to stop the Carbon modernization project -- there’s that pending court case over Compania Maritima property the City and the developers included in the JVA.

That’s another controversy that may highlight a defect the Sanggunian’s September 1 MOA wants to be cured, among others: about 90 percent of the land covered by the JVA is not owned by the City Government or, more accurately, most of the lots (about 7.8 hectares) are not titled in the name of the City.

Last November 3, CPA manager Leonilo Miole wrote to Rama that it opposed the use and conversion of the Maritima area as part of the project, reminding the acting mayor that the case filed in July 2015 (Republic of the Philippines vs. City of Cebu) is still unresolved.

Megawide/Cebu2World responded to the issue of land ownership by saying, in a September 2 statement to Explainer “there will be no transfer of any property ownership to the private sector at any time during the project.” Which ignores the aspect of use and possession: Does the City have the right to cede at any time use and possession of the Maritima property to the private developers?

MEGAWIDE HOLDS THE ACES. Mike Rama, who had pushed for the draft MOA by stepping down from the presiding officer’s chair, is transported to the chief executive’s office where he leads the negotiation for its approval by the developers.

It’s a better place. He can do a lot more for the changes than if Mayor Edgardo Labella were the one at City Hall now.

But the odds are stacked against Rama and his negotiators. While Rama must work for the “curing” of the defects, he also has to keep the project alive, a policy he keeps repeating.

Megawide/Cebu2World holds the aces: the contract, which is the law between the parties, and the city administration’s policy not to sue for rescission or annulment.

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