Seares: Look what's coming to Cebu City: a developed Waterfront area; transfer of City Hall to SRP, international port out of the city; Global City ala Bonifacio/Alabang; performing arts center ala Sydney Opera. And hosting the 2024 Palaro. Good plans. Even as the usual skeptics ask 'how' and 'how much.'

CEBU. Cebu City Vice Mayor Raymond Garcia, Councilor Dondon Hontiveros and seal of Palarong Pambansa. (Contributed photos)
CEBU. Cebu City Vice Mayor Raymond Garcia, Councilor Dondon Hontiveros and seal of Palarong Pambansa. (Contributed photos)

THE plan to develop Cebu City's Waterfront -- "the sliver of land between the water's edge and downtown Cebu City" -- has long been talked about by city planners but the latest initiatives may now be more than a push to transform the premier city's "symbol of urban decay." "Push" may have become "shove."

The strong initiatives include (a) an ordinance creating the Heritage District of Cebu City and the Cebu City Heritage Commission, which passed second reading in the City Council's regular session Wednesday, May 17, 2023, and (b) the holding of a Waterfront Development Summit last May 11 and 12.

VM GARCIA'S UPDATE. The "update" by Vice Mayor and Presiding Officer Raymond Alvin Garcia, in a privileged speech before the Sangguniang Panlungsod last May 17, outlined the project's impact. According to Garcia, chairman of the Waterfront Development Commission (CCWDC) that Mayor Mike Rama created on August 19, 2022, the project will include:

[1] The Heritage District, with its "heritage buildings and landmarks, cultural landscapes and public spaces," is the first zone of the project, for which the City will enact policies to "safeguard" the assets and have a "harmonious blend between old and modern elements," including possible restrictions on nature of business and height and design of buildings and storefronts. Along with the Heritage District, will be the Business District and Creative District, all three signifying the thrusts of the project.

[2] "Eventual pedestrianization" or the closing to traffic of Calle Magallanes and Calle Colon. The area links historic/historical locations such as the Basilica del Sto. Niño, the Magellan's Cross, Plaza Independencia, Plaza Hamabar, Metropolitan Cathedral and Museum, Heritage Monument, Parian District, Plaza Independencia, Fort San Pedro and Casa Gorordo.

BIG-TICKET ENTERPRISES. Not totally new but given fresh vigor because they're still in the list at this "serious" stage of Waterfront planning are these specific undertakings:

[1] The transfer of City Hall to SRP and completion of SRP's Pond A;

[2] Relocating the Cebu International Port to a site outside the city, which will lead to recovery of a part of the coastline from the Cebu Port Authority, a possible new growth area, and entry of international tourists on cruise ships;

[3] Making the SRP, as business zone of the Heritage District, an ala Bonifacio/Alabang Global City.

[4] Building a Performing Arts Center, main attraction of the creative zone of the Heritage District -- "similar to the Sydney Opera House in Australia" -- with facilities to develop the "inherent creativeness of the Cebuano" and provide "new verticals of business," such as game development, animation and film post-production.

VM Garcia has yet to announce specifics on the project, which Councilor Philip Zafra called "very beautiful yet ambitious." But Garcia reported "new developments are jutting the Waterfront landscape day by day" and asked his colleagues to "continue to share the vision of a developed Cebu City Waterfront."

PAMBANSANG PALARO 2024. Nearly eclipsed by the dazzling but long-term Waterfront project is the hosting of Palarong Pambansa (PP24) by the City, which the City can do, having hosted twice the national event, in 1954 and 1994.

In the last May 17 session, the City Council approved the motion of Councilor Dondon Hontiveros for the legislature to "express full support" to Cebu City's bid to host next year's "multi-sport event," touted as the Olympics of Philippine sports.

About 12,000 athletes will compete in 27 discipline sports in PP24, scheduled for July 2024. Hontiveros said there will be a big increase in the number of visitors and tourists if the City wins the bidding, scheduled on Friday, May 26. Among Cebu City's competitors in the hosting are Bacolod City, Negros Occidental and Antique Province.

FUNDING THE PROJECTS. Waterfront project chief Garcia has yet to tell the City Council and the public how the development will be implemented and how much in resources and time it will cost. The direction through, after a two-day conference among experts, is already set.

On the PP24, which will be held in July next year, Councilor Noel Wenceslao, chairman of the City Council committee on budget and finance, told the Sanggunian there would be no subsidy from the National Government for the sports event ("wala, Mr. Chairman"). But Cebu Province, through Governor Gwen Garcia, will contribute to Cebu City if it will host the sports event.

"Anyway," Wenceslao said during the session, "we are very much ready for our budget." Meaning, (a) the City has its own money to spend, or (b) Wenceslao's committee is just ready to do its budgeting/charging job. He said he'd put in the agenda for the May 31 session the charging of the cost of the oval.

Wenceslao told me Wednesday, May 7, the City has appropriated P60 million but that's not enough and "they don't know yet how much is needed." The other expenses "will be from the private sector," he had assured the City Council. "We can tap the private sector," he said to me. The usual skeptics may not find that reassuring.

AGING FACILITIES. Councilor Hontiveros's pitch for PP24 includes the argument that it will encourage the City to "rehabilitate aging sports facilities" and "upgrade its sports infrastructure," in addition to creating jobs and boosting the local economy, especially in hospitality services, tourism and transportation.

Already lined up for upgrading, Hontiveros told me Wednesday, May 24, are the Sports Center's swimming pool and its second floor, where badminton may be played, and at the SRP the facilities for football, archery, and baseball. Earlier, at the City Council session, Councilor Zafra suggested to tap Filinvest's plan to build a sports facility at the 2023 Sinulog parade site and to build, through local school boards, a grandstand at each public school that has a big playground.


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