This is a continuation of my Monday column about the redevelopment of the historic century-old Carbon Market into a “world-class” public market. In the joint venture agreement (JVA) signed by the Cebu City Government and the developer, Megawide Construction Corp., the plan is to transform the area covering some 7.8 hectares into a mid-rise business center with in-city hotels, restaurant hub, parks and public market.
In my Monday column, I discussed why some city councilors from the opposition, Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) and Vice Mayor Michael Rama only raised concerns now when everything had been stipulated in the JVA, which was signed last Jan. 11, 2021. The JVA was approved by administration allies who are the majority in the council. BOPK councilors did not support the deal.
After my column came out, an opposition councilor called me up and explained his side on the issue. He refuted the allegation that they were not doing their research by not reading the voluminous JVA. He said they and their legal consultants just lacked time to review it because they were provided with the copy only a few days before their regular session. Even administration allies also admitted that they did not read the entire JVA.
During the session, the opposition tried to block the approval of the JVA to give them enough time to read and review the documents. But an ally of the administration moved for the approval of the contract and was duly seconded by another admin ally. Under their House rules, any move and if duly seconded is carried out. So, there was a division of the House and the opposition, as usual, was outnumbered by the administration’s allies.
The councilor, who requested not to be named, admitted that all BOPK councilors have a common stand on the issue, which was not to support the administration in approving the contract because they viewed it as very “disadvantageous to the interest of the City Government.” They feel that the Cebuanos were being shortchanged by the deal. They are afraid that they might face legal suit if they vote for the approval of the P5.5 billion redevelopment.
He cited in the contract that Megawide will give the city’s share of less than P50 million a year for the first four to five years and 10 percent interest every year without getting shares from commercial buildings, rental and other incomes. The contract will run for 50 years and could be extended for another 25 years. The present income of the Carbon Market operation is P160 million a year. Isn’t it very disadvantageous to the City Government, he asked. However, after the expiration of the contract, the city will acquire all the assets invested by the developer.
Other than that, there are issues and concerns from the vendors’ side that need to be addressed. Not all vendors were consulted as there are several organizations that are opposed to the agreement. One of the major concerns of the vendors was the rent of the stalls and whether all present occupants, reaching 3,000, would be accommodated in the new buildings that would be completed in three years. Besides, there are historical and cultural significance that the project will impact on, like the Compania Maritima Building and the Freedom Park that should not be compromised.
He said the Council never conducted a public hearing on the issue. There was only a consultation. I was confused between consultation and public hearing. So I referred it to the Dictionary and this is the difference. Consultation is a conference or meeting at which opinions are exchanged or advice are prescribed. The purpose of a consultation is to hear out the person’s needs and help identify a plan of attack for solving their problems and accomplishing their goals.
On the other hand, a public hearing may be a formal meeting for receiving testimony from the public at large on a local issue or proposed government action. Testimony from both sides of an issue is usually recorded for public record, and a report summarizing the key points is generated.
Well, I can only surmise that politics has already come into play on this issue, and that Rama is just posturing again because of his own personal agenda.