WHAT can we expect after Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella upset Mayor Tomas Osmeña for the city’s top post in the recently concluded midterm solutions?
For one thing, the City will revisit the P18-billion contract with Universal Hotel and Resorts Inc. (UHRI) to develop Kawit Island at the South Road Properties.
From the very beginning, Labella has said that he was not against developing the eight-hectare property, which will be called Isla dela Victoria in honor of the late Jojo dela Victoria, a former chief of Cebu City Bantay Dagat group who was killed apparently because of his advocacy against illegal fishing.
But Labella emphasized the need to review the contract because he considers it “onerous.”
“Naa na man na (It’s already there) so we just have to renegotiate it so that the City will have a fair share and the City will not be at a total disadvantage,” he said.
Already you can see the difference between the incoming chief executive and the person he will soon replace.
The outgoing vice mayor is more than willing to sit down with the developer to come up with a deal that will make everyone happy.
So unlike Osmeña who filed criminal charges against four officials of SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI) for allegedly misrepresenting the size of its building in the SRP to reduce its tax obligation to the City Government.
Osmeña also held hostage the business permits of 16 SM Seaside tenants for allegedly failing to submit their 2016 business permit applications.
Labella said he will disclose details of the planned renegotiation once he assumes work a day after his inauguration on June 30.
Well, we’ll just have to wait until then to see if this story will have a fairy tale ending.
With Osmeña soon to be out of the picture, the consortium of SMPHI, Filinvest Land Inc. and Ayala Land Inc. can also heave a sigh of relief since Labella announced that the City will honor the contract with the three developers, which bought a 45.5-hectare property at the SRP in 2015.
In March 2018, Osmeña said: “There was no sale because it’s illegal; that’s our stand. They don’t have the title and we’re not giving it to them. It’s illegal, criminal and fraudulent.”
By the way, if you’ve already forgotten, the consortium already paid the City over P8.5 billion. But a Romulo Torres, said to be a taxpayer from Barangay Basak San Nicolas, sued Labella and members of the council to stop the City from using the proceeds of the sale.
Although the court eventually junked the case, Osmeña even threatened to confiscate the billions in favor of the City because there was “fraud” in the transaction.
The developments are expected to generate thousands of jobs and attract visitors. Hopefully, these will spur economic growth.
But both deals will have to get off the ground first. Only then, will the City have the extra cash to address basic services that have been sacrificed because of politicking and the lack of funding.
Ah, in an ideal world.