THE proposed plan to transfer the Provincial Capitol under the territorial jurisdiction of the province has long been envisioned during the administration of former Governor Emilio “Lito” Osmeña. But it did not materialize after Osmeña abandoned the governorship and focused his political activity in the national scene by running as vice president in 1992 elections and president in 1998 elections, respectively. He failed in both elections.
Now, the plan is being revived by Gov. Gwen Garcia, who is entertaining the idea of transferring the Capitol building and its entire operations in the progressive town of Balamban. I said “entertaining the idea” because these are all plans and nothing yet is final and concrete. What if Gwen will abandon the governorship and seek a national position, let’s say, a senate seat, and the next governor, especially a non-ally, is not keen on the idea? This plan will just eventually fizzle out. Although, the governor said that the P550-million appropriation for the plan will be included in the proposed 2021 Capitol budget. But then again, this is not an assurance. The next administration can just simply cancel the project.
But this is a better idea compared to the P1.29-billion project of then governor and now Vice Gov. Hilario Davide III’s 20-story Capitol Resource Center within Capitol’s compound. The project was entirely scrapped when Garcia assumed office after regaining the Capitol in the 2019 elections.
In every move and decision, there are always advantages and disadvantages. But I can foresee that this proposed plan has more advantages. This move will trigger economic activity and development in the countryside, which is one of the main thrusts of the present Provincial Government. By spreading development in the rural areas, people from the province who venture into the city without a concrete plan and end up jobless with no decent means of livelihood will be encouraged to return to their hometowns and work there or start a small business. Even big businesses will be enticed to do business in Balamban, especially since the town will be converted into a city soon. A bill filed by Cebu Third District Rep. Pablo John Garcia converting the town into a city is pending before the House of Representatives.
This move will not only benefit Balamban, but its neighbor Toledo City and adjacent municipalities like Asturias and Tuburan. For sure, the prices of real estate in these areas will increase, which may trigger an economic boom.
Balamban, known as the ship-building capital in the country, is strategically located for the Provincial Capitol as it is accessible to both north and south constituents. Residents from the south can pass through Naga-Uling road going to Toledo City and then to Balamban. Those from Carcar City and municipalities farther south can pass through the Carcar-Barili or Badian-Barili-Aloguinsan-Pinamungajan and Toledo roads. Those from the north can pass through Logo or Bogo-Medillen-San Remigio-Tuburan-Asturias areas. And those from Metro Cebu can pass through the transcentral highway.
Of course, Governor Gwen can ask the assistance of the Department of Public Works and Highways and the congressmen in the province’s various congressional districts to improve the road infrastructure in these areas and other basic necessities, such as water supply and communication connectivity.
Well, not all people support Gwen’s plan. I am quite sure there are also people, especially Capitol employees, who will be uprooted and relocated from their present status, are murmuring on this move. Even though it is part of the plan to have a residential component for employees in coordination with the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-ibig) to provide affordable housing, relocation will somehow dislocate them. Employees’ children currently enrolled in private and exclusive schools in the city will be affected. And people from the province after transacting business at the Capitol can no longer make a side trip to malls, restaurants and bars in the city.
Built in 1938 by American engineers, this 82-year-old Capitol building, Gwen said, will be converted into a mixed-use development with a museum. The Capitol building, which is a replica of the Austin Capitol building of the State of Texas in the United States of America (USA), is one of the imposing landmarks in Cebu. It was declared a heritage site by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
But this is just a crazy thought. To make it useful and revenue-generating, why not rent it out to national government agencies that don’t have their own offices here. With this, it can still serve the public.
If this plan will push through by transferring the Capitol to the province’s territorial jurisdiction, this will be Governor Gwen’s legacy. She will be remembered as the lady governor with a strong determination and conviction.