THE Regional Development Council (RDC) was established by virtue of Letter of Implementation 22 in December 1972 to carry out the Integrated Reorganization Plan. The RDC in Region 7 was the first to be organized together with Region 9 in 1973. The other RDCs were established in 1974 and 1975.
Its present mandate rests in Article X, Section 14 of the 1987 Constitution, which states that “The President shall provide for Regional Development Council or other similar bodies composed of local government officials, regional heads of departments and other government organizations within the region for purposes of administrative decentralization, to strengthen the autonomy of unit therein, and to accelerate the economic and social growth and development of the units in the region.”
There is nowhere in the RDC’s mandate to oppose and block any government projects. It is mandated to assist and support a government project. But there are people from the private sector now sitting in the RDC who think that they have the power to block a government project. Although they don’t receive remuneration, these people are in that body because they were recommended by somebody who has strong connections with the powers that be. Are these people working for the government? But why are they anti-development?
I pose this question because there are personalities in the RDC, who are using their power and influence to block a project that affects the properties and interest of their allies in the business community. Consider the case of the proposed depressed structure to be constructed on U.N. Ave. in Mandaue City purposely to address the monstrous traffic jam in that area.
The RDC’s Infrastructure Development Committee (IDC) chaired by businessman Glenn Soco has recommended deferring the project to the RDC full council headed by another businessman, world-renowned furniture designer Kenneth Cobonpue, because the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) failed to present a comprehensive traffic management plan before starting the P711-million project. But sources said that some IDC members might recommend canceling the project because their business allies who have properties in the area will be affected. A private clinic owned by Soco’s friend might be partially demolished because of the road widening. There are even reports that he is a stakeholder in that establishment.
In The Freeman’s issue last Friday, Soco was quoted as saying, “We feel that we will be made to sacrifice for something which will not solve anything as both road projects will in any way increase road capacity. And what they have failed to see is the economic cost of the implementation of each project which will be tantamount to billions of pesos lost.” Reading between the lines, I am inclined to believe that Soco is opposing the project not because of its merit but because of vested interest. In lieu of that project, what’s the best alternative, Mr. Glenn? You should also come up with your own alternative not just merely “shooting down” a project.
Now, Soco’s cohorts are ganging up on DPWH 7 Director Ador Canlas. There is now even a move, which I suspect is backed up by Soco’s “principal” to relieve Canlas. But Canlas has the backing of the majority of the congressmen in Region 7, who vouched for his integrity and competence. Instead of “crucifying” Canlas, why doesn’t the IDC help him find solutions? Can’t they wait for the winning contractor to come up with the traffic management plan?
Or why doesn’t Soco convince his businessmen-friends who own properties in the area not to refuse to the offer of DPWH when negotiations starts to speed up the process. DPWH has sourced the funds for the project. It was the department plan and was approved by Congress because it is included in the annual budget, although in tranches. Canlas is just a “good soldier,” who followed the “order” of his superior, including the Office of the President. This is a government project not Canlas’s project. But why “crucify” him? Because Soco and his “principal” want to put another person there. Someone they can “control and influence,” perhaps? Soco’s committee only has 20 members. Can we allow these people, most of them whom have vested interests, to decide the fate of a project that can benefit the public? Can the RDC full council overturn the IDC recommendation?