Sunday, December 05, 2021

Nalzaro: Kibitzers on Carbon development


AN alliance of Carbon market vendors and stakeholders affected by the modernization project of the century-old Carbon market has filed a petition before the Regional Trial Court to stop the multi-billion development and ask the court to issue a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction.

The petitioners are Carbohanong Alyansa Alang sa Reporma ug Bahandianong Ogma sa mga Nanginabuhi (Carbon), Movement Against Carbon Market Privatization (MACMP), Sanlakas party-list organization, Akbayan party-list organization, QUEBVABEI Vendors Association, Bato Ermita Community Neighborhood Association Inc. (Becanai), Wangyu Mambaling Homeowners’ Association, Ermita Fisherfolks Association, Suba Women’s Organization, Cebu Urban Poor Women’s League, Panaghugpong sa mga Kabus nga Tagadakbayan, Pasil Women’s Organization, Proper Ermita Homeowners’ Association, and several consumers, taxpayers and individual stall owners.

With all due respect, this is the first time I have heard of some of these organizations. Are they legitimate vendor’s organizations that are affected by the modernization program? Or did they just hastily organize for the purpose of filing this petition? As far as Sanlakas and Akbayan are concerned, we know already what these groups are. Don’t tell me that some of their members who come from the marginalized sectors of society like peasants, farmers and fisherfolks, are now into bigtime businessmen doing business at the Carbon market. So, are they no longer the marginalized sector but businessmen?

Or were they organized by a political group or personality just to make noise to scuttle this P5.5 billion project which may help bring the City and the businesses at Carbon into economic progress and prosperity? Are the personalities behind these organizations willing to come out in the open so we may know who they are and not just hide under the cloak of anonymity? Are the people living in Pasil and Mambaling affected by the modernization? Why did they join the petition? These groups are just kibitzers on this issue. Meaning, they are meddlers. They are nuisance.

The multi-billion project is a joint venture between the city government of Cebu and the Megawide Construction Corporation (MCC) which plans to develop the area into a world class mixed-use complex. All the concerns of the legitimate vendors have already been addressed under the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA). The JVA is very advantageous to the interest of the city government and that the City will generate a huge income compared to its present income. Under the JVA, the MCC will manage the operations of the modernized market in close coordination with the City for the next 50 years and extendible for 25 years. Upon the expiration of the JVA, all assets put up therein will be turned over to the city government.

According to the petitioners, about 90 percent of the project site involves prime real properties not owned by Cebu City thus, it is beyond the latter’s dominion and authority to invest in a long-term contract. And who owns the entire Carbon complex? Why has this issue surfaced only now when all these years or for a century the city has managed it? Maybe ‘Prince Tallano,’ the owner of the entire archipelago, owned it?

The complainants argued that Megawide failed to submit a complete proposal on the JVA, does not have the required financial standing on its own to pursue the project and does not have a track record of the project they envisioned. This issue is tantamount to questioning the financial capability and track record of the developer. It is easy for the petitioners to verify the track record of corporations. All they have to do is check with the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) if these corporations are publicly listed. Or they can ask within the business community or go to their website. Talking of track record, the MCC is the partner of GMR in developing and managing the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA). No financial capability? Look at the airport now.

The petitioners said that the City, for its part, failed to conduct a detailed negotiation, thorough evaluation and study of the unsolicited proposal, transparent competitive bidding and that majority of the city councilors who approved the JVA were not able to read the entire JVA. I think every step of the negotiation and other processes were followed. Mayor Edgardo Labella is a lawyer and being a former Ombudsman Director, he will not gamble his credibility and integrity on a questionable deal. He is very meticulous in transactions like this one.

The groups further said that the JVA is actually a Build, Operate and Transfer contract but it will remain illegal, invalid, null and void under the said framework for lack of a new concept or technology and there being guarantees provided. Well, it’s up to the court to decide on the legality of this transaction. It is the petitioners’ right to legally question this endeavor in court but I hope that the court will not derail the implementation of this project.


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