"IF that's what they want, it's up to them. But, of course they will have to grapple with certain procedures and legalities. It's the people who will judge us."

This was the reaction of outgoing Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia after mayor-elect Alfredo Benitez announced plans to repurpose the funds for the construction of Bacolod MassKara Coliseum in Barangay Alijis into a "cheaper and simpler" convention center or trade center.

Leonardia said there are so many reasons why they proposed the said project.

"It's a big tourism and sports magnet for us. If that project is pursued, it should be the biggest in Western Visayas," he said.

The mayor also cited Bacolod's accessibility within the region and even Negros Oriental.

"That will be a big advantage for us if we have the biggest coliseum in the whole Western Visayas. We are looking for that time when the bridge between Negros and Panay eventually will be there," Leonardia said.

He said that in the past, Bacolod City held big conventions where the venues were divided into three to four different venues.

"Another reason is because we wanted to balance the growth of Bacolod as development came first in the area of north and now it's high time to go south. What we see today is the same thing that we expect to happen at the Bacolod Government Center (BGC)," he added.

The mayor noted that before the BGC the east was barren.

"But look what happened after the BGC was constructed. So, I can see in the future that if the coliseum and museum are in the south, bigger developments will follow. So our growth will be dispersed," Leonardia said.

With the big ticket players here, he said that they also need a big ticket facility to cope up with the growth and development of Bacolod City.

He added ironically the people who egged him to pursue the Coliseum are the same who are already on the other side.

"Now, they are singing a different tune. Never mind who they are. It doesn’t matter," the mayor said.

It can be recalled that the Bacolod MassKara Coliseum worth P800 million is one of the priority projects of the city government led by outgoing mayor Leonardia.

It was funded through the P1.7-billion loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBM).

Benitez, who earlier met with officials of the City Engineer's Office and DBP at the coliseum construction site in Barangay Alijis, said the move would allow the local government to realign the budget for redesigning and rebuilding of the city's public markets.*