Garcia: Diplomacy works; Rama no comment

Garcia: diplomacy works; Rama no comment
STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS. Cebu City’s Acting Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia delivers his State of the City Address in the 16th Sangguniang Panlungsod Reorganizational session on Wednesday July 3,2024. / AMPER CAMPAÑA

CEBU City Acting Mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia highlighted the importance of diplomacy, in stark contrast to preventively-suspended Mayor Michael Rama’s approach towards issues with Cebu Port Authority, Metropolitan Cebu Water District, and Cebu Provincial Government.

This was stressed by the acting mayor during his State of the City Address on Wednesday, July 3, 2024, during the 16th Sangguniang Panlungsod Annual Organizational Session at Cebu City Hall.

But not to be outdone, Rama said in a phone interview Wednesday that he will deliver a People’s Address on Thursday afternoon, July 4, at Plaza Sugbo. “Akoa manang (That’s my) responsibility as mayor. I will report my accomplishments,” said Rama. He added that he does not need to react to Garcia’s address since he has not heard it.

Diplomacy works

In his address, Garcia said that when he assumed as acting mayor, he signed excavation permits on May 27 that were requested by the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD) and had been pending at the Cebu City Hall for more than a year.

“Through diplomacy, we managed a meaningful dialogue with the MCWD—dialogue that is poised to bear the fruit of water connection to the mountain barangays, thereby responding to the needs of constituents in the uplands,” said Garcia.

The requested excavation permits have been pending since March 2023.

The reported five applications for excavation permits were for the proposed MCWD pipeline expansion projects in the mountain barangays of Cebu City.

With the approval of the permits, the MCWD is expected to distribute them to some 5,000 to 7,500 households in the mountains of Cambinocot, Binaliw and Guba.

Rama reportedly tried to dismiss MCWD chairman Jose Daluz III and two other board members in 2023.

Moreover, Garcia, in his speech, stressed that through diplomacy, they had brought the Cebu Ports Authority (CPA) back into the negotiating table and closer to resolving the dispute involving properties that, when managed, enabled them to respond to the need for livelihood opportunities for hundreds of people and revenue for the city.

Last May 24, Garcia met with CPA general manager Francisco Comendador III to discuss the Compaña Maritima’s structural handling in the Aduana area.

Garcia said that the situation needs more time since there is an ongoing case in the Court of Appeals regarding the ownership of the place.

The CPA and the Cebu City Government have been at odds with each other over the ownership of the Compaña Maritima premises.

The CPA earlier filed a 34-page administrative complaint against Rama for his alleged violation of Administrative Order 23 or oppression, misconduct in office, gross negligence or dereliction of duty, and abuse of authority.

In response to this, Rama reportedly planned to file a “tsunami” of lawsuits against those who sued him and his departments.

Also, Garcia, in his speech, said he is optimistic that they may yet unlock an opportunity for the many who are occupying lands not part of 93-1 but declared as socializing housing sites, and people who are occupying province-owned lots that were not yet declared for socializing-housing-use.

93-1 refers to the ordinance that allowed Cebu City residents to own the Province-owned lots they were occupying.

“Diplomacy works!” exclaimed Garcia.

Furthermore, he stressed the importance of diplomacy in the context of the public.

“Alongside being diplomatic in our ways, we shall also be resolute in our desire to be responsive to the needs of the rest of our constituency,” he said.

Garcia said that the masses should not wait for public service, and those in public service must be willing to provide service beyond self.

“We will continue to emphasize efficiency in government service,” added Garcia.

He also said that he had directed the adoption of new technologies in the issuance of persons with disability (PWD) and senior citizens IDs with advanced security features.

On healthcare, Garcia said that they will continue in the direction of bringing health-focused infrastructure to the communities.

He mentioned the operating Apas Super Health Center and the inauguration of Guba Hospital.

On education, Garcia said that they will continue their work in establishing Cebu City College as an institution of higher learning with the hope that his colleagues will consider its passage.

He also said that they will double their effort in developing properties the Cebu City Government owns and leverage National Government programs such as the country’s flagship housing program, Pambansang Pabahay para sa Pilipino (4PH).

Garcia ensures that in Cebu City’s continuation of thrust towards socio-economic growth, he assured that the development does not sacrifice equally-important indicators such as sustainability and livability.

On flooding, Garcia said that they need to restructure their strategy on the management of waterways and runoff water and consider the plans of neighboring local government units since, for him, flooding is a shared problem that requires shared solutions.

“We can improve our drainage all we want. But if that improvement is not at par with our neighbors, we only migrate the problem elsewhere, or invite their problem here,” said Garcia.

He added, “We have waged a war on flooding but flooding is a mere symptom of mismanagement of what is otherwise a crucial resource.”

Furthermore, Garcia said that they will double their efforts on biodiversity protection, coastal resource management, climate resilience, and attaining food security while uplifting the lives of farmers and fishermen.

On transportation, Garcia is thankful for the presence of urban planning experts who are ready, willing, and able to assist them.

Even if the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is a divisive issue, Garcia said that the tension is merely an indicator that everyone is invested in resolving the concern.

“People have become aware that we cannot simply cut-and-paste a solution that worked in Curitiba, Brazil, to solve a Cebu City problem,” said Garcia.

On livelihood, Garcia said that they will strengthen their effort to establish a Creative District which brings opportunities to those who are looking for jobs in the creative sector such as filmmaking, animation, digital arts, and the like.

He said that he believes that the creative district shall be a major economic driver for Cebu City while maintaining the preservation of heritage.

“But we shall do this while continuing to preserve our history, heritage, identity, and culture, by also operationalizing what we have so far established with the passage of our ordinance establishing Cebu City’s heritage district and heritage district council,” said Garcia.

According to Garcia, since his first day as acting mayor on May 13, 2024, he tapped members of the council as overseers of executive offices.

“This room has experts in various fields – revenue generation, infrastructure, livelihood generation, the environment, technology, social welfare, agriculture, etc. And it would be such a waste if their expertise were not leveraged,” said Garcia.

Good rating

Several councilors, in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, gave Garcia’s address a good rating.

Councilor James Anthony Cuenco said that considering that Garcia has been acting mayor for barely two months, he has accomplished more for the city than his predecessor has done in the past two years.

“There is now a clearer direction on how the city goes about solving the city’s woes. Less talk and more action indeed get us more solid results,” said Cuenco.

Asked to rate Garcia’s accomplishments from one to 10, with 10 being the highest, Cuenco said: “For all of these reasons and more, I give him a nine.”

For his part, Councilor Joel Garganera said, “I can say 10 but officially, I’ll rate him a good eight, so he will not be complacent and be more motivated to exert more effort to do more.”

On the other hand, Councilor Joy Augustus Young was tightlipped when asked for a comment.


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