Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Nalzaro: Mike is not against Carbon plan but...


The proponent and detractors on the development of Carbon Public Market into a world-class public market never run out of arguments. I have already given both parties the chance to air their side through this column in our past issues. I thought that was enough for them so that their stand will be known to the stakeholders in particular and the Cebuanos, in general.

But I received an addendum from Vice Mayor Michael Rama who categorically declared that he is not against any development at Carbon Public Market, but he just wants to clarify things and to correct some defects in the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) so that it can stand on legal ground and he will not be blamed for whatever results the contract may have in the future. Here’s the full text of Mike Rama’s statement:

“Conjectures” flew when we suggested to postpone the groundbreaking of the new Cebu Carbon Market. My intent is to cure the vulnerable Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between the City of Cebu and Megawide Construction Corp. so that it would stand on solid ground, strong enough to avoid any attack on its integrity.

Let me share the facts and the reasons of my stand on the issue:

1. Again and again, I am not against the project. There are aspects in the JVA that need to be corrected before construction begins to ensure that the deal is just to the City, the stakeholders of Carbon, and even the developer.

2. Thus, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is very much needed to cover, first the agreements made with the vendors at the Mayor’s Office last March 23 and the others, including those of myself as a taxpayer, that still need to be addressed in open democratic discussion.

3. During the session before the City Council approved the JVA at 10-8 on Jan. 6, 2021, I then pointed out, when I stepped down as presiding officer and be part as member, some disturbing facts and lapses of procedure noted by my legal consultant that must be addressed, along with the need to produce documents to support the legitimacy and fairness of the deal.

4. Second is the procedure in the manner the City forged the JVA. It should have had public hearing. For the greater part, it puts in question the legitimacy of the contract that can be challenged in a court of law.

a. Being an undertaking or a contract of great local importance, a public hearing is highly recommended to avoid it being assailed as lutong macao, especially that the JVA is a 50-year agreement.

b. To explain this point, yes an ordinance that carries penalty requires a public hearing as part of the process. The public hearing will guide the Council for better judgment of the propriety of the ordinance.

How much more for this JVA of 50 years?

If properly approved, it can be defended.

c. By Parliamentary Procedure, majority prevailed last Jan. 6, regardless of the validity of the concerns. Dili ko ka pugong kung mao gyud ang gusto sa kadaghanan.

d. Pila ra man unta nang pipila ka adlaw kung itandi nimo sa 50 ka tuig? The Council members only had less than a month to review the JVA. It was given only a few days before the Christmas holidays, not much time for thorough open discussion that would allow scrutiny.

e. I do not wish to stop this project. I have been most aggressive in terms of progressive projects. But I am also very staunch in doing things right. More than our advocacy for progress is our duty to protect the welfare and interest of our constituents and to uphold the law.

5. Third, the public knows Carbon Market more as Units 1, 2 and 3, not what we know as Freedom Park and Warwick Barracks. The public is not aware the Carbon we associate with in this area will become no more.

The JVA allows Megawide to develop it for commercial purposes, not for the current vendors. What will remain of the Carbon Market we know will be lumped into the planned buildings at Freedom Park and Warwick Barracks.

6. Fourth, propriety needs to be clarified in Freedom Park and Warwick Barracks, especially that these bear cultural and historical heritage. Otherwise, the JVA becomes vulnerable.

Be that as it may, let it be clear on record that I am fighting for the restoration of Freedom Park, much more that its preservation is mandated by the National Historical Commission.

7. Fifth, it is a clearly established fact that most members of the City Council, whether belonging to the majority or minority, either failed or lacked the ample time to read the entirety of the JVA.

This is a matter of accountability. As a public office is a public trust, we are morally bound to thoroughly discuss the terms of the contract, and ensure it is not grossly disadvantageous to the City and the stakeholders of Carbon.

8. Councilor Nestor Archival asked on Jan. 6 to defer any act on the JVA for a week to allow Councilors to review it with scrutiny. I asked to defer the groundbreaking on March 24 so we could first cure potential concerns of the same JVA.

If the Council members were given time to dissect the JVA yet on Jan. 6, such proposition as calling for a public hearing should have been insisted by anyone to avoid the perception of it as lutong macao. Now such contract ideally can be referred as giluto ta sa atong kaugalingong mantika.

9. Sixth, more scrutiny should be made to determine if the City’s P50 million annual guaranteed shares from market operations is a fair deal. How much does the City now earn from Carbon?

10. I trust that Megawide will uphold its sense of corporate responsibility. While I am protecting the interest of the City and the stakeholders of Carbon, it is also their interest that gets protected in the long run.

I am confident it will be open to similarly cure the JVA so it will stand on solid ground, strong enough to fend off any attack on its integrity.


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