Seares: Traffic, water crises: MCDCB can help but it ‘has no authority’

Pachico A. Seares

[1] “Mega Cebu does not exist legally. What is their authority?” [2] “Call it Metro Cebu minus one. That’s fine with me, minus Cebu City.”--Tomas Osmeña, in two public statements in 2016 and 2018 when he was Cebu City mayor, about the Mega Cebu Development and Coordinating Board

MCDCB or Mega Cebu Development and Coordinating Board is a consortium of Cebu Province and 13 cities and towns with 18 government agencies and seven private and civil-society organizations. It has aimed to help solve public problems that cross boundaries, with the traffic mess and the water shortage on top of the list.

Tomas Osmeña shunned MCDCB’s help during his term as Cebu City mayor, saying it does not have legal authority.

Created on April 1, 2011 on the initiative of Rafi or Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc., MCDCB is (a) held together by a MOA or memorandum of agreement and (b) sustained by the shared belief that Metro Cebu’s growing problems have no borders and require “coordinated planning and development.”

Unfortunately, under then mayor Osmeña who called all the shots at City Hall, the city didn’t want to have any part in it.

‘Metro Cebu sh*t’

When Tomas announced on April 15, 2016 that the city was pulling out from MCDCB, he said he even disliked using the word “pull-out.” It assumed, he said, the city had joined a legal entity. On April 18, 2018, when he repeated his assault on MCDCB, he resented that Gordon Alan Joseph, president of Cebu Business Club, was presenting himself as a public official. “Who is he to tell the Japanese, the whole world” he was “the chairman of the Metro Cebu sh*t!”

Under the organization’s setup, the chairman is the Cebu governor and the two co-chairpersons are one from the other local government units (LGUs) and one from the private groups. Media didn’t check the claimed fact: Was Joseph pretending to lead MCDCB as Tomas alleged? An MCDCB source said Joseph heads the executive committee and “sometimes sits... as co-chair of the private sector” of the execom.

Joseph’s ‘posturing’

The root of the problem though might not be the alleged posturing of Joseph, although it was talked about that Tomas didn’t want his city to be second to any other city. (“Why should Cebu City have the same vote as Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu or Talisay?”) It could be that Osmeña didn’t want to be vetoed by a lesser LGU official.

MCDCB was not created by a presidential executive order or an act of Congress. But it had unanimous support among 13 LGUs on Cebu’s eastern side (except for Cebu City, after Tomas seized back City Hall in 2016), as well as that of regional government agencies, and the private sector.

Capacity to contract

MCDCB is not illegal, as in “its existence and purpose violate the law.” What Tomas must mean was that it was not created by law and didn’t have a legal personality, with, among others, capacity to enter into a contract. He ignored this fact though: MCDCB is at most a coordinating, planning and oversight group. It doesn’t have to enter into a contract with the government. MCDCB coordinates, plans, watches, pushes. As a group, it does not take part in any project itself although an LGU or some LGUs in the group may be an actual participant to a project it recommends.

With Tomas gone, at least in the three years that he is banished by voters, and Cebu City is back at MCDCB, is the need for making MCDB a creation of law, with the law-granted clout, also removed?

EO and 2 bills

MCDCB must not think so. Last March 18, during its first quarter meeting, the consortium urged the approval of an executive order creating the Mega Cebu Development Authority or MCDA.

That, on top of (1) a bill filed in the previous Congress and re-filed in 2019 by Rep. Raul del Mar of Cebu City north seeking to create the MCDCB and (2) a bill for the same purpose filed in the Senate by Rep. Imee Marcos also last year.

Content of the EO or any of the two bills is still not publicized. And how it will finally come out as finished product with the President’s signature is still not known.

The EO or the law, if ever it is produced and whichever the final version, will tell us nature and extent of MCDA’s authority, which in turn may give us an idea on how much influence it can bear on solutions to the major crises in Metro or Mega Cebu.

Minefield ahead

Under the legally-created structure: Can a mayor or governor pull out his LGU on whim or malice? Will MCDA be another layer in the bureaucracy of getting things done, in addition to the existing development council of each LGU and the Regional Development Council? How much voice will members representing private sectors have?

Tomas Osmeña was pissed off by MCDCB’s Joseph. But he might also have sensed the probable minefield on the way to “legalizing” the organization.