CEBU City Mayor Mike Rama seems to doubt news that customs officials are eyeing the return of properties of about nine hectares where the old customs building stands.

Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo converted the imposing edifice into the Malacañang sa Sugbo, which she visited only a few times. However, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III no longer sees the need for presidential assistants and a satellite office in Cebu.

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“Kung tinuod man na ba, I wish walaon na nila sa ilang utok, palihug (If that’s true, I hope the BOC officials will drop that plan, please),” Mike was quoted as saying by Sun.Star Cebu.

But newly appointed Customs Commissioner Joselito Alvarez categorically said it during a press conference during the anniversary celebration of Customs Cebu last Friday. He expressed support for efforts of incumbent District Collector Ronnie Silvestre to reclaim the old BOC building.

For Mayor Rama, City Hall is now renovating the Plaza Indepen-dencia, a huge part of it belonging to, by virtue of a Marcos-era presidential decree, the BOC. Below the plaza is the multi-billion Cebu South Coastal Road tunnel.

However, customs officials look forward to the bigger space at the old building they used to occupy, thereby facilitating the processing of an expected increase in importations as the economy improves. For several years now, they have been making do with the small building at the Cebu International Port that saw continuous renovation to accommodate the bureau’s various units.

Past collectors honored during the bureau’s anniversary celebration, like former district collector now Zamboanga Gov. Rolando Yebes and John Tan, recalled holding office at the old building. It was renovated during the term of district collector Boy Odilao. Former district collectors Des Mangaoang and Boysie Belmonte held office at the new building at Pier 6.

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Was newly appointed National Food Authority (NFA) boss Lito Banayo joking, unleashing a PR spin, or embarrassingly misinformed when he showed on national television NFA warehouses full of rice and claimed we have a surplus? The truth is, a rice trader told me, the NFA is only releasing a few bags per trader every day to extend its present stocks thought to last only a month. A stop in importations under the new administration has practically led to a lack of supply of commercial rice. The buffer stock inside NFA warehouses is not enough to last until the next harvest.

Meanwhile, a customs source confirmed a report of a national daily last week about the arrival of additional NFA rice ordered during the GMA administration. He clarified the importation was not under the Philippine International Trading Corp. but through an agreement with the private sector. However, the importation was not under customs jurisdiction.

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Liberal Party’s (LP) Efrain Pelaez Jr. should review his stand on the Marina Mall not paying taxes to Lapu-Lapu City Hall because it is within the jurisdiction of the Philippine Export Zone Authority. Mactan Export Zone (MEZ) locators are paying their dues. Multinational corporations like Timex and Lexmark, the intended beneficiaries of export zone tax incentives, even joined the top 20 taxpayers honored by Mayor Paz Radaza last Friday. And the Marina Mall of Pelaez is not even a MEZ locator or a multinational corporation.

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Tuburan Mayor Aljun Diamante is trying his best to steer clear of the ongoing row between Gov. Gwen Garcia and Vice Gov. Greg Sanchez. During dinner with some journalists last Friday, LP’s Diamante said he declined an offer to run for the post of mayors’ league Cebu chapter president against the candidate of One Cebu. The mayor believes this is the best course to take in delivering projects for Tuburan without having to worry about possible obstacles thrown his way by Capitol.

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Ateneo’s Fr. Bienvenido Nebres Jr. joined militant student voices in calling the attention of President Aquino to more pressing problems of the country’s educational system like the lack of classrooms, error-free books, and quality teachers.

P-Noy’s idea of increasing the number of years to basic education is not a pressing concern, especially to the parents of students already burdened by increasing tuition.

Even the University of the Philippines, the state university, has increased its fees and it is affecting middle-income earners. P-Noy should focus on reducing corruption involving education funds and funnel these to reforms that make quality education reachable to more Filipinos.

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