Rama: Cordova from down under

·3 min read

In Cordova, Cebu, Cesar “Didoy” Suan defeated Mayor Mary Therese “Teche” Sitoy-Cho in the May 9, 2022 elections: 21,222 votes against 17,052. He ended the Sitoy family’s close to five decades of administratorship over the third class municipality of 13 barangays and 70,595 people.

Four Sitoys have sat at the helm of the municipality from 1975, according to a May 20, 2022 SunStar Cebu report; with one interruption, when Deogracias Jumao-as was designated OIC of the town following the ‘86 Edsa Revolt.

Celedonio Sitoy was in office from 1975 to 1986, and again from 1988 to 1998; Arleigh Sitoy was elected in 1998 and sat until 2007; Adelino “Addy” Sitoy took over from 2007 to 2016, followed by Mayor Teche, who was incumbent for two terms.

During the terms of mayor Addy, all the way to the administration of Mayor Teche, Cordova saw a steady decrease in the poverty index—from 25.93 percent of the population saying they lived below the poverty line in 2009, to just nine percent in 2018, according to the Philippine Statistics Office data. And with the recent completion and opening of the P33 billion Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway, which cuts travel time from Cebu City to Cordova from hours to minutes, a steady flow of direct investment is seen to pour into the town in the years to come.

Performance

But in the 2021 Cities and Municipalities Competitive Index, Cordova was number 36 in a field of 649 third to fourth class municipalities assessed by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Although it ranked 26th in economic dynamism, it ranked 227th in government efficiency.

Leveraging the town’s tourism potential—Cordova has marine sanctuaries in Barangays Hilutungan, Alegria and along Nalusuan Island, and a lush mangrove forest—had been one of Mayor Teche’s economic jump-starters following the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

I would credit this tourism push for the latest craze that has hit the town—floating cottages accessible by banca from the municipality’s Bantayan Bay.

For P3,000, a group can rent out a floating cottage—essentially an anchored and roofed bamboo raft with a hole in the middle that people can jump into the water from—for the better part of a day. It’s popular for picnics.

Cost of tourism

I chanced upon these floating cottages last Saturday, June 18, when a group of friends decided to go on a boat dive at a reef structure off Cordova’s Bantayan Bay.

We decided to cap the day with a discovery dive for the three non-divers in the boat, incidentally all staff members of the 10th branch of the Regional Trial Court in Cebu.

As the depth where we were originally anchored was too deep for a discovery dive, we decided to move closer to the bay—essentially closer to where the floating cottages were—and anchored our boat on the soft sand of the sea floor.

As soon as we went underwater, the underbelly of the incipient tourism enterprise emerged: plastic items that people apparently throw off the floating rafts and into the otherwise clear sea.

Inside of 39 minutes, we were able to fill a small sack we picked up at the seafloor with other plastic items that included spoons, forks, cups, wraps and other items.

We also found discarded nylon ropes which were similar to the kind used to tie bamboo together, and a large sheet of straw matting which was particularly difficult to safely secure and bring to the surface.

Debris from inconsiderate out-of-towners or tourism operators won’t rank high on Mayor Suan’s agenda. I’m sure he already has enough on his plate just transitioning into his new role as local chief administrator.

We can only hope that, in his own push towards economic and social progress for Cordova, he will not ignore environmental concerns.

By the way, in that DTI 2021 Cities and Municipalities Competitive Index, Cordova scored 64th on the aspect of resiliency, due in part to having a less than sufficient sanitary system. Just saying.

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