Speaker Gloria Arroyo held meetings in Cebu
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2019 - 12:00am

Last week, our good friend Commodore Robert “Bobby” Joseph was guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Metro Cebu at the Casino Español headed by president Bobby Tito Pacana. The major difference between my Rotary Club of Cebu (mother) and the Metro Rotary Club is that they have women members with them. After the singing led by Dr. Wyben Briones whose group sounded like the Rotary Club of Manila Choir, members of Rotary were introduced by the emcee Eddie Baritta who introduced me as a recipient of the Rotary Club of Manila’s prestigious Journalist of the Year award three years ago.

During his speech, Commodore Bobby Joseph explained to the Rotarians that the massive Manila Bay cleanup/rehabilitation was the work of Cebuanos. Cebuano lawyer Antonio Oposa filed the case in the Supreme Court (SC) in 2007. In December 2008, the SC issued a Mandamus order to 13 government agencies to clean up the Manila Bay. But remember 2008 was nearly over and nothing happened in 2009, and when 2010 came it was a presidential election which was won by then president Benigno  Aquino III, who for six years did nothing for Manila Bay. That’s six years of Noynoying!

Then came the opportunity of Bobby Joseph to be named commodore of the Manila Yacht Club (MYC) and I challenged him to spearhead the cleanup of Manila Bay because the Duterte administration had already cleared the six months cleanup of Boracay. The rest was history. Then he challenged the Rotary Club of Metro Cebu to join the Manila Bay rehabilitation and help clean the rivers and esteros of Metro Cebu, and the Rotarians wholeheartedly accepted the challenge of Comm. Bobby Joseph.

I had no doubt that Cebuanos too want to clean up the Mactan Channel, which is fed by the Subangdaku River, the Butuanon River of Mandaue and the Lahug Creek and Guadalupe River and the Bulacao River in Cebu City. Of course we will be watching the proposed cleanup events in Metro Cebu and report this to our readers.

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Former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) was in Cebu City to conduct two House oversight hearings on transportation and housing. The House oversight committee on transportation chaired by Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento tackled the issue on the Roll-Off Roll-On system, particularly updates on the new routes that will be opened. Speaker Arroyo had earlier pushed for the expansion and modernization of the Ro-Ro system which was launched during her term as president when she launched her administration’s Flagship program, “Strong Republic Nautical Highway.”

This meeting was done at the Cebu Port Authority (CPA) with officials from the Philippine Ports Authority, the Department of Transportation and Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) and organizations from shipping groups including owners of shipping companies. While there was really no new issues tackled, I was able to talk to Rep. Cesar Sarmiento and praised him that hearings for the maritime industry held in Cebu was a welcome event since the Visayas is the region that needs Ro-Ro vessels.

 It is a fact that the economic growth and tourism development of Region-7 was a direct result of then president Gloria Arroyo’s Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH). Those who attended the hearing were Rep. Raul del Mar, Rep. R. Abellanosa, Mayor Tomas Osmeña and DOTr officials.

After the oversight commitee hearing on Ro-Ro, Speaker Arroyo conducted another oversight committee hearing, this time on housing to find a resolution of the longstanding legal issue over a property in Barangay Apas, Cebu City, which she had long awarded to urban poor beneficiaries through her Presidential Proclamation No. 409 issued in 2003. The hearing was chaired by Rep. Albee Benitez (Negros Occidental) inside the Central Command in Barangay Apas. I didn’t have time to attend that hearing due to time constraints and other meetings.

But this is a very important issue for Cebu City because the land in Apas belonged to the Cebu provincial government. In 1959, it donated to the Armed Forces of the Philippines 47 parcels of land covering 80 hectares with the condition that the property will revert to the provincial government if the same is no longer used for military purposes. Years later, the Cebu provincial government found out that only 14 of the 47 lots were being used for military purposes as the rest were being occupied by informal settlers. It then moved to recover the property. I also wanted the military camp to open its major road to the public and reduce the traffic congestion.

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Email: vsbobita@gmail.com

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