Monday, November 29, 2021

Winston’s dream for Cebu

IF ELECTED as governor of Cebu, lawyer Winston Garcia said he would propose three reclamation projects on which a new international port and special economic zones for light industry and tourism can be built.

He would also ask the National Government for P4 billion, out of a P14-billion premium paid for the right to upgrade Mactan airport, in order to build a second runway.

“If I had been there (in the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority Board), I would have fought tooth and nail to keep that premium with the MCIAA,” Garcia said. “That should remain in Cebu.”

The governor sits as cochair of the MCIAA board.

Priority projects

Garcia, former president and general manager of the Government Service Insurance System, hosted lunch and a meeting yesterday for some editors and columnists of Sun.Star Publishing Inc. He presented “A strategy for jobs and sustained economic growth for Cebu”, a set of five priority projects to replicate the success of the Mactan Export Processing Zones (MEPZ).

“The success of MEPZ is due largely to its proximity to the international airport and seaport, allowing easy access for the import of goods and export of finished products to the international market,” he said.

Garcia said this success can’t be replicated at present because the airport has only one runway, the present Cebu International Port is congested, and there is no more land available for a special zone within a 40-kilometer radius of the airport and international seaport.

His proposals include a 500-hectare reclamation project to be developed into the Cordova tourism zone, a 200-hectare reclamation in Consolacion or Liloan where a new international container port can be built, and a 30 to 40-hectare light industrial zone in the City of Carcar.

Leading the way

The tourism zone, he proposed, would include a four-kilometer beach front, space for a hotel with 15,000 or more rooms, highend residential spaces and a retirement facility. This, he added, would create 150,000 direct jobs.

“Tourism will lead the way,” Garcia said.

The estimated investment needed for all five of his proposals adds up to around P340 billion, but Garcia said these can be pursued with private sector financing.

“All we will ask from the National Government is the authority to reclaim land, authority to transfer the international port and to implement these projects as publicprivate partnerships (PPP),” Garcia said.

Mactan airport is being upgraded under a PPP, for which a consortium of Megawide Corp. and GMR of India paid a premium of some P14.4 billion. Part of that, the gubernatorial aspirant said, should be used to build a second runway.

Davide’s action

“We need that second parallel runway badly,” Garcia said. “It’s not the terminal that makes an airport. It’s the runway.”

Asked about the timeline for his proposals, he said that he would do his best to have the projects ready for public bidding within three years.

“This is my concept of what the leader of the province should do,” Garcia added. He said his main pledges would be for the Province to provide free hospital services in all district and provincial hospitals, as well as free vocational and technical schools.

Asked in a separate interview about what he thought of his prospective challenger’s proposals, Gov. Hilario Davide III said: “The Garcias have been at the helm of the Cebu Provincial Government for the past two decades, yet together they have not done what Winston Garcia now plans to do.”

Garcia said his experience as a director of San Miguel Corp. since 2001 has exposed him to PPP ventures, and that it was high time Cebu took advantage of the opportunities to attract international financing while a low-interest environment still prevails.

“The problem right now in Cebu is that there is no political leadership, it’s all private sector-led initiatives. There is not even a metro-wide traffic system right now,” Garcia said. But the private sector, he added, still needs “the influence and networks of government” in order to move Cebu forward.
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