GUBERNATORIAL candidate Winston Garcia yesterday said he doesn’t believe it’s necessary to create another office, such as the proposed Mega Cebu Development Authority (MCDA), to solve the province’s problems, including traffic and the lack of infrastructure.
“I don’t believe in decision by commission,” Garcia said during a candidates’ forum hosted by the Metro Cebu Development and Coordinating Board (MCDCB).
“A collective body will never work efficiently. Great cities in democracies are always run only by a mayor or a governor, who is subjected to the punishment or reward of the ballot,” said the lawyer and former Government Service Insurance System president.
The One Cebu standard-bearer said that if elected governor, he would consult the private sector. But he would prefer, instead of creating a separate office, to amend instead the charter of Cebu Province to “strengthen the coordinative ability of the governor’s office.”
Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III, who chairs the MCDCB, did not join the forum, which was part of a series that gave candidates the chance to explain how they would work to create a more livable and progressive Cebu.
Last January, the House committee on government enterprises and privatization approved House Bill 6227, which pushes for the creation of the MCDA. Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar is the principal author, with all eight other lawmakers from Cebu as co-authors, including former Cebu governor and now Rep. Gwen Garcia.
As part of the forum, Marc Canton of the Movement for a Livable Cebu asked the gubernatorial candidates: What would you do with the MCDCB?
He pointed out that the group, which brings together the Province, 13 cities and towns, regional agencies and private sector representatives, has come up with good ideas and plans to foster Cebu’s growth.
“Do you believe in that framework or do you want to have a top-down kind of governance?” Canton asked.
Garcia said that instead of creating a separate entity, he would “rather strengthen the governor’s office in order to address problems that cross borders.”
“If it’s a law, it’s a law. If I become governor, I would study the charter (of the MCDA)…But let’s not make the governor a non-entity,” he added.
Roberto Aboitiz, co-chair of the MCDCB and president of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI), said that the MCDA “is quite different” from the Metro Manila Development Authority, which Garcia cited as one example of failed metropolitan governance.
The MCDA, Aboitiz said, will enable the governor, mayors and the private sector to “harness our talent and energy to push necessary projects beyond political terms.”
“There’s been a tremendous absence of forward-looking plans, workable budget processes, design and engineering over the last 20-30 years,” he added. “We, as citizens of Cebu, want to participate. We want to have space to work with political leaders. We’re all working for Cebu.”
During the two-hour forum, Garcia and fellow gubernatorial candidates Boyet Cortes, Desidorio Estinoso and Nito Magnanao also presented a range of proposals, from making agriculture more productive to filling in gaps in Cebu’s infrastructure needs.
Cortes said he would address traffic congestion by getting the different local governments to adopt the same rules; provide cash incentives to graduates to encourage students to stay in school; and adopt a more participative leadership in the Province.
Estinoso said his three priorities are solving the water crisis by building desalination plants, providing livelihood to the poor families through cooperatives, and stopping the sale of illegal drugs.
Magnanao said he would have farmers till idle government lands to produce food.
Garcia said that if elected governor, among his first three priorities would be to ask the new President to issue an executive order that will fast-track detailed engineering studies for a Light Rail Transit system. He would enter into a joint venture with the Philippine Reclamation Authority to develop a tourism zone in Cordova, industrial estates and the site of a new international container port.
“I have always believed that government should only do what the private sector cannot,” he said.