Tearing down Citi Center

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014


I REMEMBER Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama asking City Engineer Jose Marie Poblete about it. Poblete has also been designated by the mayor as “flagship program czar.” The question Rama asked Poblete during a forum with the media weeks ago was when the Citi Center structure would be demolished. He wanted a definite date. July was Poblete’s answer.

I am reminded of this because of the report that the city’s Prevention, Restoration, Order, Beautification and Enhancement (whew!) or Probe team is starting to tear down the structures built in the Citi Center complex in Barangay Kamagayan. That means Poblete missed a bit the deadline he set.

Anyway, the Citi Center structure was actually scheduled for demolition during Rama’s first term (2010 to 2013) but my friend Alvin Dizon, who is with the Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) blocked it. I understand his reason because the structure has many occupants. The area has long ceased to be primarily a commercial complex.

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This time around, there seems to be no opposition to the tearing down of Citi Center.

The 50 families occupying the structure’s spaces and the 80 families occupying a city-owned lot at the back of the building were given notices to vacate the area as early as February. This was followed up by the barangay officials themselves. So, no protest noise.

From the rubble of the old building will sprout a medium-rise condominium for City Hall employees. And for the first time since Rama became mayor, the city will re-block an area without waiting for a fire to happen. The “re-blocking” of this Kamagayan zone means the re-division of the lots for equitable occupancy and the restoration of a road that cuts through the interior and links Junquera St. with Jakosalem St.

This can be a game-changer for the barangay, known for two major problems:

prostitution and the trade of illegal drugs. The zone that the city is targeting for development is known as a haven of both prostitutes and pushers/users of illegal drugs. The interior can be a fortress that can be difficult to crack by law enforcers.

The re-blocking of the interior and the re-opening of the blocked road would result in the substantial change in the Kamagayan setup. The access will be easier both for law enforcers and fire fighters. The old red light district will no longer be a brooding zone but a lively one.

In that media forum, the mayor claims he regularly makes notes so he won’t forget the tasks he is implementing. This is important considering the many projects that the city has started and is about to implement in the city’s barangays, both in the lowlands and in the uplands. So this Kamagayan project may yet be realized.

At closer look, though, the mayor’s action belies his claim. His designation of a
“flagship programs czar” is an admission he cannot handle everything. It’s also a sign that he really wants things done well and fast.

The city is implementing the various meaningful projects even before it could sell lots at the South Road Properties (SRP) and even if the Rama administration has been hobbled for years by the refusal of the BOPK-dominated city council to approve its recommended annual budgets.

This contrasts heavily with what happened during the final term of former mayor Tomas Osmeña, who implemented an SRP-centered and election-focused governance that largely neglected the delivery of basic services. Weren’t we complaining then, for example, of the potholes that dotted many of the city’s streets?

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 20, 2014.

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