TALISAY Mayor Johnny de los Reyes did not show up yesterday for the signing of an agreement with a company that wants to lease the City’s idle fish port, an absence that cost the City nearly P10 million.

Asian Marine Transport Corp. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Paul Rodriguez tore up a P9.6-million check he had been prepared to hand over as advance payment.

“I think the City is sick,” he said. He also said he had arrived at City Hall at 9:50 and waited until noon. Reporters saw him tear the check, then he walked out.

City Attorney Alfredo Sipalay, in a separate interview, said that the mayor wanted some changes in the contract, particularly on the monthly rental rate.

Sipalay explained that Asia Marine offered P800,000 a month as rent, but the mayor wants P1.098 million, computed at US$1 per square meter. The fish port spans 24,846 square meters.

When asked if there was an earlier agreement before the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) was arranged, Sipalay said yes, but that he did not know why the mayor failed to arrive.

Rodriguez, who said he waited from 9:50 a.m. to noon, pointed out that the vice mayor and councilors were waiting but the mayor did not come.

“I don’t know what kind of professionalism. Di man ni mahimo nga ingon ani (This is not acceptable), there’s something wrong here,” said Rodriguez.

He said that his company was putting up an investment that would create jobs for Talisaynons, and are not asking the City for money.

“If this is the way they run their city, I don’t think any investor would like to invest here,” Rodriguez said.

When asked if someone had attempted to ask for money from the company as part of the deal, he answered, “No comment.”

In a separate interview, Vice Mayor Romeo Villarante said that work on the transaction has taken more than a year and that the council has granted the mayor authority to enter into the contract.

Last Feb. 4, the Talisay City Council passed a resolution authorizing the mayor to sign a renewable lease contract with Asian Marine for 25 years.

De los Reyes then wrote the Cebu Ports Authority (CPA) last Feb. 16, urging it to allow the fish port’s full operation this year.

“I am writing today to express my sincere hope that you will act on behalf of the best interest of our constituents and the greater Cebu by ultimately voting in favor of the idle fish port and unfinished roro port to be finally operated within this year by Asian Marine, headed by Rodriguez,” read the mayor’s letter to CPA General Manager Edmund Tan.

After lunch, Mayor de los Reyes went to the vice mayor’s office and conferred with Villarante and Councilors Danny Caballero, Aldin Diaz, Dory Emit and Raul Cabañero.

Reporters waited outside, hoping to get a word from the mayor, who promised to return after their meeting.

Rodriguez’s plan was to finish the port to serve cargo ships heading for Manila, Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, Davao City, General Santos City, Iloilo, Bacolod and Camiguin.

He said they intended to pour in P500 million to extend the port area by 100 meters and dredge a shallow portion.

But after he walked out of the session hall, those plans may no longer be realized.