Random thoughts while in Kawit

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Friday, June 27, 2014


THE first thing I did after arriving at Cebu City’s unfinished Senior Citizen Center where Mayor Michael Rama’s press conference was held Wednesday morning was take another closer view of the structure’s surrounding. The Center is located within the old Kawit Island, which is now connected to Cebu’s mainland after the city’s foreshore area was reclaimed.

The presscon was in the Center’s first floor, so my first instinct was to take a peek at the still being constructed next floor. But first, I noted in front of the building the light tower, smoothened and newly painted.

I followed what looked like a person with disability (PWD) ramp, rough and graying, and noticed while going up that the wall of the unfinished next floor was built with stone. (I asked City Hall’s Eli Espina later what was the plan for the Center’s upper floor, but he didn’t know.) I went down from the unfinished ramp and proceeded to the walled seafront only a few meters from the building.

I was pleasantly surprised that the old Kawit wooden house near the light tower is still standing. It is being used as office of the city’s Bantay Dagat team. I used to jog all the way from Barangay San Roque, Talisay City to the area when my family temporarily resided in Barangay Inayawan, Cebu City. That was when the SRP was still undeveloped.

The water was calm and the waves that bumped into the sea wall and the steps that allowed entry to the sea was gentle. Not too far away, a ship was moving south away from the port of Cebu. The city obviously wanted to develop Kawit’s seafront area into another walkway but still has to finish it.

Kawit, partly fenced off from the coastal road by a stone wall, is largely silent now.

My family purposely went here last December because of the carnival that was mounted, called the “Kasadya sa SRP.” By the way, Kawit is not far from the new SM mall that is set to open late this year. The construction site is visible from the Senior Citizens Center and identifiable because of its newly built giant cube marker.

A Middle East-based investor is interested in developing the 10-hectare Kawit area (I won’t use “island” because it is no longer one). It plans to put up there high-end apartments, restaurants, coffee shops and this--a small marina. Considering its location, a small marina can indeed be had there and thus put to commercial use Kawit’s seafront.

Roberto “Bu” Varquez, head of the SRP management office, said Damac Properties Co. is dangling P5-billion to the Cebu City Government. “It will put SRP in the tourism map worldwide and will boost further our tourism industry. This could open lot of opportunities like direct flights from Cebu to Middle East countries,” Varquez said.

But I doubt if the purchase will happen considering that the Cebu City Council is controlled by Rama’s political rival, Tomas Osmeña. Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) councilors have been opposing Rama’s plans for the SRP, which Osmeña seems to consider as his own property. Even if he is no longer mayor, Osmeña still wants to control SRP’s future.

By the way, what has happened to the fisherfolk in the city that used to fish in the seas around the old Kawit island? It does seem like the SRP is blocking their entry into the city’s seawaters. I saw some fishing boats kept in Kawit during my visit, but they were rotting.

The look of the SRP is fast changing. With the operation of the Filinvest residential project and the opening of the SM Mall, the change will already be very palpable. In this sense, I rue my failure to ask the mayor this during the presscon: How will the city address the traffic problems that will crop up at the SRP a few months from now?

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 28, 2014.

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