“Last Bastion?”

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

TO PROJECT his address last week beyond Cebu’s City Council, ex-mayor Tomas Osmeña bought fullpage ads. He cited reasons why Ordinance 2332 -- which handcuffs sale of South Road Properties (SRP) lots by the new City Hall team -- should be retained.

This is a 180-degree turn from 1997, when the P12 billion for the SRP, Cebu South Coastal Road loan was negotiated. The first repayment bill came in 2005. In between, Osmeña stomped on discussions.

A servile City Council never asked tough questions. “You’ll not pay a single centavo” for this project, he assured Cebuanos.

From the first  tranche from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation loan, Osmeña  lopped off P60.9 million to pay who? The JBIC.  Money hocked from Tokyo paid off Tokyo--plus interest on the interest. We paid with the left hand what the right hand borrowed.

“When I was mayor, I didn’t have to sell (SRP) lots to pay the SRP debt,” he said last week. “In 2005, I paid P505 million.” In his last year, the bill came up to P721 million.  

Excuse me, sir. Did you mean that Cebuano taxpayers paid. You were their temporary steward -- a good one you say, not the rake of the parable. Inflation ballooned from the original two billion yen loan, into six billion. This is paid in tranches up to 2025 -- by our grandchildren. 

Nowhere in his address does Osmeña mention the foreign debt burden of P60,654 on every Cebuano. Compare that to P44,548 for national IOUs.

None of the 143 other cities is that deep in hock, the Commission on Audit notes. This cripples the capacity of any administration to address festering issues.

Cebu, for instance, needs to rebuild the earthquake-shattered Cebu City Medical Center, which serves the poorest. It is saddled with shoddy schools, strained health services to poisoned rivers. Only half of homes have piped water.

Idle SRP lots are a “liability,” warns Eleuterio Ong Vaño of the non-partisan Cebu Real Estate Brokers Association. Set aside political differences, use proceeds from SRP lot sales to ease today’s critical needs.

Osmeña spoke early December. He didn’t know of the Oct. 18 report that flunked the SRP and south coastal road projects as “unsatisfactory”?

In his report to Jica and Cebu City, Yasuhiro Kawabata of Sanshu Engineering Consultants failed the SRP project, now under development for 18 years.  Kawabata gave the City an overall rating of “D” for “unsatisfactory,” Sun.Star Cebu reported.

“Achievement of the project’s objectives is at an extremely limited level... SRP is supposed to house commercial establishments, service providers and light industries, among others. In fact, it only has residential complexes and light industries.

“But the original objective was to provide accessibility for the planned export processing zone to be constructed at the SRP,” Kawabata pointed out.

“Judging the effectiveness made by both reclamation and coastal projects comprehensibly, the project has achieved its objectives at a limited level.

Therefore, its effectiveness and impact (are) low.”

“Can the (Mike Rama) administration fool the people all the time?” Osmeña asked. “Yes. Because they have strong media backing.” The press is an accomplice?

The majority in the City Council clicks its heels whenever Osmeña coughs. They are “the last bastion of preserving our wealth.” That is the gospel according to Citizen Tomas.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 08, 2013.


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