Sunday, September 19, 2021

Seares: Tomas’s ‘poultry’ tag on airport sticks

CEBU City Mayor Tomas Osmeña made the comment about the look of the multi-billion-peso passenger terminal in December 2013 when GMR-Megawide consortium unwrapped the design for the building.

Tomas said it “looks like a poultry (house)” and, adding nastiness, suggested “they should transfer it to Bantayan because that is where poultry products are abundant.”

Now it’s ‘unique’

Fast forward to 2018, when last Thursday (June 7), President Duterte inaugurated the terminal and GMR-Megawide opened it for public viewing. It got high ratings: from Duterte’s “beautiful airport” to Cebu City north Rep. Raul del Mar’s “the best in Asia.”

Inevitably, Tomas’s critics recall what he said five years ago and naughtily compared it to party mate del Mar’s comment. The mayor, admitting his initial bashing of the terminal, changed his view. And he flipped quickly: the day after the inaugural, reported that the mayor was already gushing over it: “unique and one of the best I saw so far.”

Change of mind

Minds can change when circumstances change.

When the mayor insulted GMR-Megawide in 2013, his brother, then senator Serge Osmeña, was pushing for a rival consortium, Filinvest-Changi, to get the P17.5 billion contract. Serge went to the Supreme Court on April 7, 2014 to move for a special raffle even as a Makati-based group, Business for Progress Movement, petitioned on Nov. 3 of the same year for an injunction to stop GMR-Megawide, which won the bidding and, two days earlier (Nov. 1), took over management of the Mactan airport.

The Supreme Court put the issue to rest when it threw out on Jan. 13, 2016 the two lawsuits filed by Serge and the business group, saying there was “no clear and positive right calling for judicial protection.” Theirs, the tribunal said, was a “contingent or future right.” Serge alleged conflict of interest and other defects of the award but the court focused on only one issue: whether the complainants had an existing right that deserved court protection. None.

Were plans revised?

Tomas has the right to change his opinion about the terminal. It was fat and ugly before but now it looks attractive. More accurately, he first saw it as a poultry house but now to him it is “unique” and “the best” he has seen.

He seems tentative though in his Facebook post. A supporter implies that the design that GMR-Megawide publicized was different from the finished terminal. That should be easy to check if the consortium made substantial changes on the look of the facility. Did they convert the edifice into a thing of beauty, from the eyesore that Tomas wanted to relocate to the chicken houses of Bantayan?

If radical changes were indeed made, Tomas could even claim that his critique had led to the improvement and the “lovely” result.

“Sense of place”

The hounding of Tomas by his critics regarding his “poultry (house)” diatribe is just an interesting footnote to the terminal controversy.

What must concern Cebuanos more is whether the Mactan airport’s design has established what airport design experts call “a sense of place.” Citing the Singapore Changi Airport, with its tropical landscape defining the city and giving the terminal a distinct personality, design gurus say travelers would like to feel that too about MCIA’s new facility.

Diminishing the cities

And one thing, which may be confirmed only in years to come: The Mactan airport must provide jobs and facilities that “may not exist and could not exist elsewhere, rather than replicate jobs and facilities outside the airport.”

That way, Mactan airport would not “diminish” the three cities outside it.


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