Seares: Del Mar, Imee bills may change rules on running Mega Cebu group

Pachico A. Seares

HOW would MCDA or Mega Cebu Development Authority, proposed in two pending bills in Congress, be different from the MCDCB or Mega Cebu Development and Coordinating Board, which has been existing since 2011?

MCDA, as an act of Congress, would give the consortium of local government units and private sector organizations the legal personality that then Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña decried as non-existent when he “pulled out” the city from the group in 2018.

MCDA would’ve specific functions not just of “planning, coordinating, regulating and monitoring” programs and projects for Metro Cebu and Cebu Province, but also of delivering services that have “multi-LGU or metro-wide coverage and impact.” Such as traffic, water, garbage and peace and order.

P1B seed money

MCDA would’ve the power to enter into contracts and the power to sue or be sued. It would start with P1 billion as starting money for operating expenses and implementation of the law.

With the passage of MCDA law, no mayor or some other local official could call it “Metro sh*t.” as then mayor Osmeña called it.

Two versions

Glimpses into how the law would look like are offered by the House and Senate versions of the bill:

[1] House Bill 11, filed July 1, 2019, by Cebu City North Rep. Raul del Mar, a modified version of the bill he had filed in the previous Congress;

[2] Senate Bill 1037, filed Sept. 11, 2019 by Sen. Imee Marcos.

The two versions are almost identical except in words and phrases on some points but over-all the two bills do not clash in substance: Each proposal aims to implement the Constitution’s mandate for local governments to “group themselves, consolidate or coordinate their efforts, services and resources” for common benefit.

Governor’s status

One change over the existing MCDCB structure stands out and it involves the choice of chairperson and two co-chairpersons.

In the format adopted in the MCDCB memorandum of agreement nine years ago, the chairperson is the governor with a co-chairperson for government sector elected from among the 13 city and town mayors and another co-chairperson elected from among the seven nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and civil society reps.

Under the del Mar and Marcos proposals, that would change. The governor doesn’t automatically become the chairperson, who will have to be picked from among the governor and the city mayors. And only five members from the private sector will elect one from among themselves the person who will sit as co-chairperson for NGOs and civil society. (The general manager, the sixth regular member, is not mentioned and is thus deemed excluded.)

Equal voting rights

On all other matters except the choice of leaders, all members-–ex-officio, the elected government officials and regular members, the NGO reps-–will have equal voting rights.

What may stir discussion during processing in the legislative mill are (a) “diminution” of the governor’s status to that of a city mayor and (b) the “shutout” of town mayors from the top leadership of chairperson; at most, a municipal mayor can be co-chairperson representing the town mayors bloc.

Both del Mar and Marcos bills provide that “each member, ex-officio or regular, shall have equal voting right and participate during the deliberations of the regular and special meetings” of MCDA.

Those left out

It may be noted that the appointed government officials, who lead 18 regional offices in the existing MCDCB organization, are no longer mentioned in the MCDA bills.

It’s probable they will still be asked to appear before the MCDA board on projects and programs related to their respective agencies. But under the del Mar and Marcos proposal, they are not MCDA members.

The membership may further burgeon from the initial “metro” concept--limited to LGUs in Cebu’s eastern seaboard-–to the “mega” concept, which considers the population of entire “province” or “islands” in the year 2050. Meaning, the towns and cities left out for now may still become part of the Mega group.

Competing interests

To get there, lawmakers must first wrestle with the problem of setting up MCDA’s structure, topped by competing interests and egos of those who lead.

Del Mar and Marcos, fully aware of the clash, actual and potential, have included in their respective proposals the qualifier that MCDA provisions won’t hurt the interest of any LGU: The enumeration of functions is prefaced with “subject to the approval of the LGUs concerned.” And MCDA operations must not “prejudice existing rights” of a local government.

A governor or mayor could refuse to take part in a program or project he opposes. What is not clear is whether, like Tomas Osmeña, one could pull out the province or city or town from MCDA if something pisses the official off.