Nalzaro: ‘Putting the cart before the horse’

Bobby Nalzaro
·4 min read

THE stand of some members of the Cebu City Council and Vice Mayor Michael Rama on the redevelopment of the historical century-old Carbon market is a classic case of the idiom, “Putting the cart before the horse,” which means to suggest something is done contrary to a convention or culturally expected order or relationship. The idiom is about confusing cause and effect. It is used in a context that reverses the usual chronological order of A and B.

Why? Because the council had already given authority to Mayor Edgardo Labella to negotiate with the developer, Megawide Construction Corp., signed the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) last Jan. 11, 2021 and the council approved it. But two months later, some bright minds in the council questioned the agreement when the development was about to commence.

In his privileged speech, Rama expressed disapproval of the groundbreaking which was postponed several times and only pushed through last week, calling it a “hasty” event. Why are we in a hurry? Unsa may dalian nga daghan pa man ning mga issue nga angayan resolbahon? Rama raised issues on the P5.5-billion redevelopment because of its impact on culture and heritage and the vendors’ concerns. He asked why the developer could not wait to break ground after all issues have been settled.

He said that the council has the job to protect the welfare of its constituents and uphold the law, especially in the case when negotiations over certain issues in the contract have not been finalized. He said he is more concerned with the cultural and historical significance of the Carbon market, which will be destroyed during this modernization. He wants to refer the matter first to the City Historical Affairs Commission (Chac), which he chairs. He wants the developer to submit its plans on the development of the market so that the commission can evaluate and study it further.

Opposition councilors belonging to the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPk) supported Rama’s stand. I am just wondering why these concerns on cultural and historical significance only crop up now? Were these not taken during the series of consultations and hearings among stakeholders conducted by the City Council?

I thought that everything had been ironed out as far as City Hall was concerned because the Council had given the authority to the mayor and all agreements had been stipulated in the JVA. It only shows that they did not read and fully understand what was in the contract. It is just unfortunate that we are electing legislators to represent us, but some of them are not doing research. They just approved everything without reading and thinking.

The historical and cultural aspect of this development is just a side issue. What our legislators should focus on are the concerns and conditions of those people doing business and living at the Carbon market. There are people who will be displaced and cultural and historical facts can be compromised. There is always a price for development. But this does not mean that we will not develop because there are sectors that will be affected and some historical facts will be destroyed. The past and the present can coexist.

The concerns of the vendors, such as stall assignments, stall rental, prices of products and the management of the market have already been addressed in the JVA. The City will still manage the operation of the market under our Market Code and the present occupants will not be displaced. Even the residents nearby will be taken care of and the ambulant vendors and the “kargadors” can still continue doing their means of living. Despite the assurance, there are minor groups within the vendors’ organization that are apprehensive about their future condition and plight. But can the City allow itself to be held hostage by these people who oppose the project? We don’t know that those who oppose have their own agenda and vested interests? Or maybe their move has political undertones?

The Carbon Redevelopment Project is a public-private partnership (PPP) by the Cebu City Government and Megawide, a leading developer in the country. PPP is encouraged by government because it does not entail huge budget for development on the part of government. Example of the PPPs are the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), the Mactan Cebu third bridge and the skyways in Metro Manila.

PPP is common among infrastructure and utilities. It offers several benefits and provides better infrastructure solutions than an initiative that is wholly public or private. The operational and project executive risks are transferred from the government to the private participant, which usually has more experience in cost containment. Yes, the private partner, in this case Megawide, has to recover its investment in a couple of years but it cannot just impose its own terms and conditions because there is a contract and any move to impose fees can be regulated by government regulatory bodies. So why not take advantage of this great deal? Who is willing to invest here if that is the “laban o bawi” attitude of our local officials?