Espinoza: Finally, a new Mandaue City Hall from the ruins

Espinoza: Finally, a new Mandaue City Hall from the ruins
SunStar EspinozaFree Zone

After the acquisition of the infamous Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) by the City of Mandaue from the Province of Cebu in October 2016 in the amount of P350 million, I asked myself every time I pass by this structure, why don’t officials of Mandaue City use this property for the new city hall that they have envisioned for such a long time.

Somehow, my question about the utility of this dilapidating CICC is now answered after the majority of the Mandaue City Council approved on Monday, July 8, 2024, a resolution granting Mayor Jonas Cortes the authority to sign a contract with the contractor for the conversion of the CICC into a P2.4-billion Mandaue City Government Center (MCGC).

Cortes earlier said the aim of the construction of the MCGC, which will break ground in August, is to put government offices and other agencies in the city all in one place.

But first, the City Government must evict the victims of fires and some homeless people who are now the current occupants of the 3.8-hectare property at the reclamation area.

Briefly, this three-story CICC was built in time for the 12th Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Summit and the 2nd East Asia Summit during the first term of Gov. Gwendolyn Gwen Garcia. WT Construction was the contractor. The construction started sometime in April 2006 and was finished in late November. It was inaugurated on Jan. 6, 2007.

The project was marred by controversies since it was allegedly constructed without the conduct of a bidding. There were accusations that the materials used were not new and the cost of the construction suddenly rose to almost a billion pesos from its original cost of P500 million.

The governor and several others were charged before the Ombudsman for allegedly giving the contractor unwarranted benefits and caused undue injury to the government in the amount of at least P257,413,911.73.

The March 31, 2016 resolution of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales declaring Garcia to have violated the law when she allowed WT Construction to perform additional works without an appropriation, contract and public bidding was, however, overturned by Ombudsman Samuel Martires in December 2020, who also cleared the rest of her graft charges.

Coincidence or not, but the contractor that will build the MCGC is WT Construction, the same contractor that built the CICC. I am not supposing anything. I am just stating a fact.

The Mandaue City Council’s approval of the authority for the City Government, through Mayor Cortes, to take out a loan in the amount of P3.5 billion with government banks for the project was opposed by Councilors Nerissa Soon-Ruiz, Joel Seno, Cesar Cabahug, Jr. and Andreo Icalina. But they were outnumbered.

Councilor Ruiz suggested that instead of taking out a loan, which the Mandauehanons will be burdened to pay, the City can implement the project through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). She said there was no need to borrow the P3.5 billion since there is already a proposal for the PPP.

Ruiz, speaking in Cebuano, said if the City seeks out a loan, the Mandauehanons will be burdened to pay through their taxes and the other services will be sacrificed since the loan must be paid back.

“Why don’t we look into something that Mandaue City would not spend? So that was our objection,” she said.

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