DESPITE coming from opposing political parties, Cebu City's two incoming representatives vowed to work together to bring more progress as they begin their terms on June 30, 2022.

North District Representative-elect Rachel Marguerite "Cutie" del Mar and South District Representative-elect Eduardo "Edu" Rama said their plans include creating additional congressional districts, as well as lobbying for higher salaries for teachers and nurses to improve the country's education and health system.

The two bared their plans on Tuesday, June 7, at MyTV Cebu's Openline News Forum at the Casino Españo in Cebu City.

Del Mar ran under the Bando Osmeña–Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) party, while Rama, an incumbent councilor, is part of the administration's Partido Barug-PDP Laban.

Among the projects that the two legislators agreed to work on are the creation of additional congressional districts in the city and the prohibition of online sabong (cockfighting).

Del Mar said she wanted to mimic the traits of her late father, congressman Raul del Mar, who was known to have no enemies.

"Once you are in position, you work together, and yes, I have no problem working with whoever has been elected," said del Mar.

Rama also said he saw no problem with working with del Mar, since the congresswoman's late father was Rama's wedding godfather.

More districts

Both Rama and del Mar believe that adding more districts, to the city's two congressional districts, will be beneficial for the Cebuanos.

Cebu City has 80 barangays, of which 46 are currently part of the north district and 34 are part of the south district.

Rama said that during their caucus in the city council, both the administration and opposition councilors agreed that it is now time to add more districts.

According to Rama, the city's population already meets one of the qualifications for creating additional legislative districts in the city.

Section 5 (3) Article VI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution stipulates that each city with a population of at least 250,000 persons, should have at least one representative in Congress.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Cebu City had a population of 964,169 in 2020.

Days before the election on May 9, Mayor Michael Rama also mentioned that he wanted to redistrict the city from two to five congressional districts.

Del Mar said establishing more districts would mean more funding for programs and projects.

Rama, the incoming congressman, said additional districts would also mean more representation of Cebuanos' voices in Congress's lower chamber.

"That would be an advantage for the Cebuanos. That is one of the priorities we are looking at," said Rama.

Online sabong

The two legislators also said online sabong or cockfighting should not be brought back due to its negative impacts on the community.

Rama said online sabong establishments in the city were not properly regulated and were too blatant for the children to see.

"First, when it was approved, most of us in the city council did not really understand what it was. What we wanted to do was at least help some of the industries. But after seeing what happened, it turned out to be too bad," Rama said in a mixture of Cebuano and English.

Del Mar said online sabong had only made the poor poorer and it is now better to get rid of it since it can be abused easily.

"The poor only get poorer. Everybody goes into gambling. They gamble and they think they can earn more when in actuality, the minute you gamble, you are ready to lose what you gamble, and I am against it," said del Mar.

Teachers, nurses

The two solons also agreed that the salary grade assigned to teachers should be raised to encourage them in doing their jobs and to allow government to attract better qualified applicants.

"A lot of people have come to me and said, ‘Our teachers have the English proficiency level of a Grade 3 student’ and we need to change that," said del Mar.

Del Mar added that increasing the salary of a Teacher 1 from salary grade 11 to salary grade 14 will "attract more teachers" to join the country's education sector.

Rama also lamented that the current salary of teachers in the country is far lower than the salaries of teachers in neighboring countries in the Southeast Asian region.

Del Mar also proposed that all students be given a tablet computer so they will no longer have to carry heavy books to school.

Health

Rama also wants to increase the salary of nurses in the country, especially those working in private hospitals.

Rama said there are adequate medical facilities in the city, but the problem is the shortage of nurses in the hospitals.

"I had this bad experience even before the (Covid-19) pandemic. A relative of mine went from hospital to hospital. At that time, I kept on wondering why they kept on turning us down. Later, I found out that there was a shortage of nurses," said Rama.

On the part of del Mar, she vowed to continue what her father, the late Raul del Mar, started in providing medical and burial assistance that has already helped more than 140,000 constituents.

Legislative agenda

According to del Mar, there are 16 House Bills already lined up to be filed in the House of Representatives.

Del Mar said most of the bills came from her late father, who died in office in November 2020.

Rama added that he would also want to focus on projects that would involve agriculture and livelihood.

Rama is a neophyte in the House of Representatives, while del Mar would be a second-time representative, having won a seat in the House in 2010.

Del Mar said she wanted to become a member of the committee on disaster resilience, tourism and legislative franchise.

Rama wished to become a member of the committees on health, education, agriculture, livelihood, housing and environment. (with CTL)