Tell it to SunStar: Some clarity amid the chaos

Tell it to SunStar
Tell it to SunStarSunStar file photo

By Ed Karlon N. Rama, Executive Assistant II, Office of the Vice Mayor of Cebu City

With respect to writer Publio J. Briones’s thoughts and feelings on the construction of a Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT) station in front of the Capitol, and his assumptions on the dynamics between Mayor Michael Rama and his vice mayor, I would like to offer some clarity to his column last March 1, with the hope of facilitating better understanding on the part of the reading public.

In his column, Mr. Briones intimated that Vice Mayor Raymond Alvin N. Garcia chose to side with the Capitol instead of “defending” the project, and thinking about “our” collective plight and, thus, strained his relationship with the Mayor. Mr. Briones used the words “soured” and “split.”

The mayor and his vice mayor, in truth, share the concern that the proposed terminal construction will mar the view of the Capitol, which, along with the Fuente Rotunda and the Osmeña Blvd., form a heritage corridor that is protected by law.

This is evident in the very press release published by the Cebu City Public Information Office, upon which many news reports on the issue have been based.

Vice Mayor Garcia’s act of voicing his strong concern in a privilege speech before the Sangguniang Panlungsod is protecting the cultural and heritage asset of Cebu City, which is and has always been championed by the good mayor.

In fact, it was upon the mayor’s authority—the vice mayor being the mayor’s choice as chairman of the Cebu City Historical and Cultural Affairs Commission (Chac)—that Attorney Garcia engaged the issue.

Authoring a resolution that urged the Office of the Building Official (OBO) to issue a cease and desist order on the station pending a more suitable design, and not on the project as a whole, also does not constitute the vice mayor having turned his back on the City Government and the people.

It is, instead, defending the very identity of the Cebuano. It is ensuring the integrity of a cultural and historical asset that comprises part of our collective identity as a people.

And only those who operate without considering established facts will think, or worse, insinuate, that the vice mayor has turned his back on the mayor in favor of the Capitol.

The OBO is headed by the building official who acts on behalf of the mayor. How can the vice mayor be accused of turning his back on the mayor when everything goes to and depends upon the mayor for action?

That both the vice mayor and the Capitol acted almost synchronously is simply because Dr. Jose Eleazar Bersales, who is both a consultant of the Capitol and a commissioner of Chac, raised both concerns to both agencies almost at the same time.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Capitol would also act. It is a direct party in interest because it owns the land upon which the CBRT station in question is being constructed.

The fact that the City and the Province are both concerned—though over different aspects—of the same shared issue, only indicates the magnitude of the problem and its potential permanent impact.

There is a need to emphasize that the CBRT project is not a Cebu City project, but one that is nationally funded and carried out by the Department of Transportation through a private contractor who may or may not be as sensitive to the culture and heritage of Cebu City.

Likewise needing emphasis is the fact that the proponent of the project never formally presented the actual design of the terminal to the appropriate agency of the Cebu City Government.

Circulating images online that did not and, in a continuing sense, does not offer the perspective of the proposed design vis-à-vis the vista it would mar, contrary to law, does not constitute formal notice.


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