Nalzaro: Is Tomas anti-development now?

·6 min read

So, “the cat is out of the bag.” I am referring to the move of some “affected vendors” and other stakeholders who oppose the modernization plan of the century old Carbon Public Market, a P5.5-billion Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) by the City Government of Cebu and Megawide Construction Corporation (MCC).

It has been confirmed that those who oppose the project have been backed up by a political group headed by former Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña. This, after Tomas revealed during a dialogue with a few vendors’ organizations that they will have the contract between the city government and the MCC cancelled in the event that his wife, Margot Osmeña, wins as mayor in the 2022 elections.

This revelation also exposed another angle in the political landscape in the city if and when Margot wins. Margot will only be a titular head and Tomas will be the one running the affairs of the city. If the Cebuanos vote for Margot, they are electing Tomas. This is because Tomas is the one talking about his plans for the city. Mura ra’g tawo-tawo sa humayan ani diay si Margot.

Tomas said they found a lot of evidence to have the JVA cancelled and prevent the modernization of the Carbon market. While acknowledging that only the court can rescind a contract, he vowed to use some legal means to help the affected vendors obtain justice. He described the modernization plan as “anti-poor,” saying that once the market will be developed, big business corporations will control the place and the marginalized vendors will be eliminated. He assured the stakeholders that he will help them financially. However, Tomas did not cite any specific questionable provisions under the JVA which will be his basis to have the contract rescinded. I doubt if he read the JVA.

I have been suspecting that those vendors’ organizations which filed a case against Carbon modernization, including some leaders of the left-leaning organizations who have no business at the Carbon market, have been backed up by a politician. Now, my suspicion has been proven right. Tomas is behind them.

I thought Tomas is a pro-development because he envisioned Cebu City to be the center of economic development in this part of the country. In fact, he developed the South Road Properties because he foresaw it as Cebu’s gateway to progress. He said he wanted to attain his vision of making Cebu City globally competitive and at par with Manila, Hong Kong and Singapore.

When he envisioned his plans for the SRP, did he think of those ordinary people who would be displaced and deprived of their livelihood? Did he think of the hazards and negative implications it would bring to the environment?

In the Carbon development, no legitimate vendors will be displaced. All the concerns of the present occupants, including the rates of the stall rentals, their security of occupancy and the pricing of basic goods have been addressed in the JVA. The developer even gave a little consideration to the ambulant vendors, assuring them that they can still make a living. The city government has been assured of its monthly income for the next 50 years. There will be no negative environmental impact. Although there are declared historical and heritage parks that will be slightly affected, they will still be preserved, not totally demolished.

This is the problem with some politicians like Tomas. If big business corporations enter into a transaction with the city during his incumbency, everything will be above board and corruption-free. But if the transaction, like that of the Carbon modernization, is entered into during the term of a political rival, it will be tainted with anomaly. We invite and entice investors to invest here, but who will be willing to do so if they will just be caught in a political crossfire? If another administration will take over, they will ‘rock’ their investment. Cebu City will always be tagged as a place that is not business-friendly.

I am not saying that this JVA is perfect and corruption-free. But it has been approved by majority of the members of City Council and thoroughly reviewed by the lawyers of both parties. MCC, which is one of the reputable companies in the country with a track record in urban development, is not foolish to enter into a JVA or partnership with a local government unit in a highly questionable deal. That P5.5 billion investment is no joke. It’s a huge investment. MCC is the partner of GMR Group in developing and managing the Mactan Cebu International Airport. Look at it now! It’s a world-class facility that the Cebuanos are proud of.

If we did not allow development, we won’t have the Ayala Malls, Cebu Business Park and IT Park. If the public will not patronize Carbon once it will be developed because it would already be high-end and world class, they can still go to the Taboan and T. Padilla markets and other satellite markets in the city.

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A very reliable source said the loyal supporters of the late Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, including members of his family, are planning to throw their support behind mayoral candidate Councilor Dave Tumulak instead of Mayor Michael Rama in the 2022 elections. The source said that Labella’s supporters, composed of his law associates whom he appointed to sensitive positions at the City Hall, headed by former City Administrator Floro Casas Jr., are in a constant meeting with Metropolitan Cebu Water District Chairman and Partido Panaghiusa head Jose Daluz III and Labella’s family, to formalize their alliance and stand.

The source did not cite the reason why they will abandon Rama and support Tumulak. But I believe this has something to do with their frustration with Rama. Rama has been saying he would not rock the boat at the City Hall but what he has been doing is contrary to his public pronouncements. He dismissed Labella’s appointees, especially those who were

coterminous with the late mayor.

The source said the group still has to iron out some issues before they will make their stand public. If we may recall, Casas, during his eulogy for Labella, announced that their group and Labella’s family will make a major pronouncement in a couple of days about some political developments.

One of the issues the group is looking at is that Jaypee Labella, son of the late mayor, will be caught in the crossfire. Jaypee is running for councilor under Barug. The source said Labella’s widow, Joy and another son, Eugene, have already decided to support Tumulak but they are considering Jaypee’s predicament. Another issue the group is considering is the stand of Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Secretary Michael Dino, who is already committed to support the tandem of Rama and Councilor Raymond Alvin Garcia. Well, abangan.

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