FOR the first time since the May 13 midterm elections, the top newly elected officials of Cebu Province and Cebu City have united to "make life better" for Cebuanos.
Flanked by their newly elected and reelected colleagues and Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino, incoming governor and outgoing Third District Rep. Gwen Garcia and incoming Cebu City mayor and outgoing Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella met for a unity and solidarity meeting last Saturday, May 25, at the Grand Convention Center.
Aside from discussing "borderless" solutions on perennial problems like traffic, garbage and flooding, the new set of elected officials also tackled issues concerning existing and possible transactions between the City Government and Provincial Government.
At the top of the list were the land swap deal and the proposed Ciudad project.
In a press conference after the closed-door meeting, Labella told reporters that the land swap deal concerning the 93-1 lots was one of their major concerns.
"In fact, it was one of the first (topics) we discussed," he said in Cebuano.
Labella said there is "no problem" on the City Council's end since the deal has been signed.
Garcia, for her part, said she wants the Capitol to make a representation and to sit together with the City Government to discuss the matter.
"The important thing is, now we can sit together. Immediately, we will form a committee with a representation from the Province, most especially our future chairman of the committee on provincial properties, with a counterpart from the City Council, with representation also from both our legal offices," she said.
With the committee, the governor-elect said an inventory of residents and 93-1 lots can be made, among others.
"Just allow us the opportunity to look into the entire transaction and we may be able to discuss this with the new Provincial Board (PB), of course, so that we can arrange it and make it in order," she said.
After close to 30 years, the City Government and Provincial Government finally signed the Deed of Donation and Acceptance of the lots belonging to 93-1.
Outgoing Mayor Tomas Osmeña, and incoming vice governor and outgoing Gov. Hilario Davide III signed the documents on Aug. 3, 2018.
More than 5,000 residents living in 11 barangays in Cebu City will benefit from the deal.
These residents occupy Capitol lots that were declared socialized housing sites under Provincial Ordinance 93-1.
In December 2016, Osmeña and Davide signed the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the land swap deal between the City and the Province.
Based on the MOA, the Province will give the City 32 hectares of lots spread across several barangays, which are occupied mostly by urban poor settlers.
It will also hand over 1.5 hectares in the Department of Agriculture compound on M. Velez St.; 2,358 square meters on Gorordo Ave. in Barangay Lahug; and 577 square meters on Don Gil Garcia St. in Barangay Capitol Site.
In exchange, the City offered the Province a 2.5-hectare lot in the South Road Properties.
It is also proposing to turn over to the Province a 3.3-hectare block behind SM City in Barangay Mabolo; a 2.5-hectare botanical garden behind SM Seaside in the SRP; nine hectares in Barangay Pulpogan, Consolacion; the 1.37-hectare lot where the septage treatment plant lot stands; and the 2,476-square-meter lot where the city abattoir stands.
The deal also includes returning to Capitol the City’s possession of and rights to the zoo, a condition set by the Province.
The transfer of the Pulpogan property, though, is still pending before the Regional Trial Court Branch 9.
Another transaction that will need the City Government's cooperation is the realization of the stalled Ciudad project in Barangay Banilad.
In 2007, Osmeña blocked the Capitol’s build-transfer-operate (BTO) venture called Ciudad with private company Fifth Avenue Development Corp.
The cited reason: it would worsen traffic in Banilad.
Under the administration of former Cebu City mayor and incoming vice mayor Michael Rama, the project was given a locational clearance to proceed in 2011.
But in 2012, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources denied the project’s application for an environmental compliance certificate because its proponents were not able to secure a tree-cutting permit.
In 2015, the PB approved a resolution that authorized Davide to sign the BTO agreement with Fifth Avenue to continue the proposed Ciudad project.
With the change in administration at the City Hall, Garcia is hopeful the that project will be revived.
"It would have benefited greatly the coffers of the province of Cebu, but more importantly, can help bring in more revenues for the city of Cebu. But we all know how that happened and what happened along the way, that the outgoing leadership of the city of Cebu was against it for whatever reasons there might have been. I hope that we can now return to the negotiating table, and that the Province and City will again discuss about the project, which I continue to believe is a very worthwhile project," she said.
Sought for comment, Labella replied: "I as mayor, should enter into contracts with the authority of the City Council. Anything that the mayor does should always be the imprimatur of the council. Anything should first go through the council before the mayor acts on any matter."
Meanwhile, Garcia and Labella also agreed that Metro Cebu needs an integrated transportation system.
Garcia said other local government units (LGU) in Metro Cebu must be included in finding a solution to the traffic problem.
“An integrated intermodal transport system is the most expansive and holistic solution to this traffic problem that we are now experiencing and such has to take into consideration the other LGUs beyond Cebu City,” Garcia said.
Labella also expressed his support for the Cebu Integrated Intermodal Transportation System (CIITS).
And although the light rail transit (LRT) system will be the backbone of CIITS, he assured that the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project will also be included.
Labella said one LRT route will cover Cebu City's central district, while another route will go all the way to the Mactan airport.
Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino, who was at the meeting, announced that a private firm has been given an original proponent status by the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
“It will really happen, this is not just talk,” he said.
Dino said the documents are already with the National Economic and Development Authority and once these are completed, these will go back to DOTr for a Swiss challenge.
In another development, Dino said his office will coordinate with the national government to put up housing projects in the city and the province.
“We aim to provide about 100,000 units of socialized housing for Cebu in the next three years. It’s about time that we provide decent housing for our informal settlers and displaced families,” he said in a press statement.
“This will alleviate poverty as we will have more productive citizens which will subsequently promote peace and order in these communities. It will also spur economic growth as these projects will bring in more investments and provide more jobs for our people,” he added. (RTF/RVC)