LOCAL officials and businessmen have expressed support for the plan of Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia to move the provincial seat of government to the town of Balamban, 52 kilometers away from Cebu City.
Balamban Mayor Alex Binghay who welcomed Garcia’s plan said placing the proposed Cebu Provincial Government Center (CPGC) in his town would mean more economic development there.
In a teleconference with reporters on Friday, Nov. 6, 2020, Binghay said he felt “challenged” by Garcia’s plan since it would mean preparing Balamban for the economic impact of the CPGC once the building is constructed and made operational.
“No town is ready especially with the resources we have right now. But I welcome the challenge. In fact, we even welcomed industries here even though there were structural and communication challenges along the way. Yet, we overcame the challenges,” Binghay said in Cebuano.
“It’s nice to view it as a challenge because if we say that we’re not ready, we will lose the opportunity,” he added.
Balamban, a first class municipality in southwest Cebu, is known as the shipbuilding capital of the Philippines and home to the West Cebu Industrial Park, a 283-hectare industrial estate with 11 locators and over 14,000 workers.
Binghay said Balamban will also prepare for possible traffic problems that may arise once provincial offices are moved there.
“Yes, we have traffic as of now but it is up to us to plan. In fact, a parallel road from Toledo City to Transcentral (Highway) is in the planning stage. An initial amount has been set aside by DPWH but that will not be very immediate,” Binghay said.
Near zero effect
Meanwhile, Steven Yu, president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), said the plan to transfer Cebu’s seat of power to Balamban will hardly have an impact on business operations in the Province.
“This is unless the business is supplying goods and services to the Provincial Government, in which case, you have to go travel the distance by then. At 52 kilometers from Cebu City, it is manageable,” Yu told SunStar Cebu.
As businesses are now more keen on going online, Yu said there will be no problem in transacting with the Provincial Government for the application of permits, payment of taxes and processing of other documents.
Yu said should MCCI officials have physical face to face meetings with the governor, they would be willing to travel the distance.
For his part, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Cebu Provincial Director Jhoaden Lucero said DILG sees no problem with Garcia’s plan as long as everything is above board and legal.
Lucero said Cebu has an existing provincial ordinance that mandates where the seat of government should be established.
Lucero said the Provincial Board can amend that ordinance to facilitate the transfer to Balamban.
The Local Government Code or Republic Act 7160 states: “When conditions and developments in the local government unit concerned have significantly changed subsequent to the establishment of the seat of government, its Sanggunian may, after public hearing and by a vote of two-thirds of all its members, transfer the same to a site better suited to its needs. Provided, however, That no such transfer shall be made outside the territorial boundaries of the local government unit concerned.”
Earlier this week, Garcia announced that the Province will be allocating around P550 million for the construction of the CPGC in Balamban, with a plan to move both executive and legislative offices of the Cebu Provincial Government there.
Garcia said this is a way to bring the Provincial Government closer to its constituents and promote countryside development.
Garcia also plans to convert the 82-year-old Cebu Provincial Capitol building in Cebu City into a mixed-use development which will include a museum.
Garcia said she picked Balamban as the site for the envisioned CPGC due to its strategic location and accessibility.
Her brother, Pablo John “PJ” Garcia, is also the current representative of the Third District of Cebu, which includes Balamban.
Before PJ’s latest term which began on June 30, 2019, it was Governor Garcia herself who held that post from June 30, 2013 to June 30, 2019.
Prior to that, from June 30, 2007 to June 30, 2013, it was Pablo John who held that seat.
Between them, the siblings have held that seat for the last 13 years.
Before them, it was their father, Pablo Garcia, who represented the district from June 30, 1987 to June 30, 1995.
The Third District of Cebu comprises Toledo City and the towns of Aloguinsan, Asturias, Balamban, Barili, Pinamungajan and Tuburan.
In July 2019, Rep. PJ Garcia filed a bill in Congress to convert Balamban into a component city. / ANV, JOB / JKV