Seares: VM Rama explains fiasco on Carbon Market contract. What we understand Mike said, what he could've said.

Pachico A. Seares
·4 min read

'CART BEFORE THE HORSE.' The Cebu City Council is trying to correct its mistake in authorizing Mayor Edgardo Labella to sign the P5.5-billion joint venture agreement (JVA) before it could read the 75-plus pages contract.

When it raised a louder howl over terms allegedly disadvantageous to the City Government, the deed was already sealed, the ground broken, and Megawide Construction Corp., the developer, was set to start construction.

Broadcaster-columnist Bobby Nalzaro, in a series of opinion columns in SunStar, thrashed Vice Mayor Mike Rama, leader in the legislative outcry to overhaul the agreement, for questioning after the fact, assailing the terms after it had approved the contract. Just like, Nalzaro said, putting the cart before the horse.

IN THIRD PERSON. Rama, in his reply addressed solely to Nalzaro, spoke in 12 paragraphs: all long one, except paragraph #5. And he spoke in the third person, referring to himself as "VM Rama."

Here's the short of it, reduced to nine paragraphs by shunning repetition, skipping detours and cutting through the thicket:

[1] VM Rama wants only to save the project from attacks that may later derail it.

[2] Megawide and the Labella administration can ably defend the project on questions from the minority BOPK in the City Council. VM Rama is not "posturing" since he knows that the project and similar public services cannot be "abrogated" on mere issues raised against it.

[3] Veteran legislator VM Rama believes in "curative" or "remedial" measures and allowing Megawide and the administration to explain and clarify.

That will speed up the project, he said. This is their "opportunity" but "people just fail to see and appreciate it."

[4] All stakeholders must actively take part in developing Carbon Market, for reasons of history, trade and industry, and culture and heritage, which "converge" in Carbon.

[5] The project is welcomed, Cebuanos deserve the "dream project," they've been "patiently waiting for it."

[6] But it must be "sustainable" and profitable and at the same time preserve its history, culture and heritage.

[7] Rama, as vice mayor and City Council presiding officer, will not "muddle" Carbon's development with public perception of "bickering, railroading, corruption, overpricing, disadvantageous terms (to the city), lack of public hearing and consultation, and oppression of the vendors."

[8] VM Rama has been "very cautious and sensitive" to any Carbon project and won't tolerate delay or mistake.

[9] VM Rama has been "pro-development" but doesn't "shy away" from issues that until now have remained "un-clarified and un-addressed." He won't have the Carbon project begin now and later be stopped.

CORE ISSUE. The beef against the legislators, which even Mayor Labella pointed out, is that they're complaining only after they authorized the mayor to sign the contract. Labella and Megawide had sealed the agreement and gone ahead with the ground-breaking after putting it off for a few days.

That central issue, VM Rama failed to mention in his piece for Nalzaro's column. Mike could've said, something like "Yes, we goofed. We didn't read the contract or have it read and studied by experts for us. No, we didn't even ask from our (battery of) consultants for a summary of the financial conditions, especially on the specifics of development and how much the city would get." And yes, by superiority of number, the ruling party rejected the request of BOPK councilors for a one-week extension of the JVA review.

COULD BE MORE SPECIFIC. Rama's reply to Bobby's request for Rama's side avoided the main issue of an upended procedure.

And this: It did not explicitly say what BOPK and some legislators, including the vice mayor, want to be clarified about, which are: the vendors' plight, the Bato settlers' future and, most of all, the suspicion that the city is gutted by the JVA's monetary conditions ("giluto ta sa sa atong kaugalingong mantika") and Megawide is getting all the choice cuts while the city the scraps ("sensiyo," "pipityogin").

MUST HORSE PUSH, NOT PULL? Why couldn't the VM repeat in writing to Nalzaro what he and some other councilors loudly and freely said in the Sanggunian?

Rama could've been more candid to Nalzaro. Mike could've said: Yes, we erred. The "karatela" is in front of, and leads, the horse, instead of the other way around. But precisely, that's why we're trying to correct things.

And here's one argument why the public must support the effort of Rama and company to change some of the JVA's conditions: "Tungod kay nasayop mi sa Konseho nga gi-una namo ang karwahe, ato gihapong padaganon bisan og ang kabayo nagtulod imbis magbutad?" Translating the metaphor in practical terms: the officials must not give up and still do what they can to mitigate the perceived loss from the deal.

One drawback though to the Sanggunian's bipartisan move is that Megawide might not go along and the elected officials could find it tough to explain the fiasco to 2022's voters.