Cebu celebrates 27th Press Freedom Week
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - September 17, 2019 - 12:00am

This week is the 27th Cebu Press Freedom Week, something that our counterparts in Manila never commemorated. This was held at the Cebu Provincial Capitol Social Hall, with a holy mass celebrated by DyRF station manager Fr. Roberto Ebisa who in his homily said, “The industry can take inspiration from the fact that while several journalists have left due to challenges and concerns, there are still those who choose to stay and who remain unfazed.” After the holy mass, there was an inter-news organization sing and dance contest won by CDN Digital, The Freeman won second place and SunStar Daily winning third place.

Tomorrow, Sept. 18, SunStar will hold its Journalism Transformation Forum at the Marcelo Fernan Press Center from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. The next day, Sept. 19 on the same venue, The Freeman will bring in veteran journalist Ana Marie Pamintuan, editor-in-chief of The Philippine STAR and Manuel Mogato, editor-at-large of News5 Digital on the topic, “The News in Challenging Times.” Both Pamintuan and Mogato are Pulitzer Prize winners for international reporting in 2018, which will definitely help old and new journalists.

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Last week during the executive session on the masterplan, Cebu City alone will have an estimated budgetary requirement of P8.2 billion worth of projects, which includes river improvements, diversion channel and the drainage mains improvements. This was a report from the Unified Project Management Office of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). With this fund, Councilor Jerry Guardo wants the Regional Development Council (RDC) and the Office of the Presidential Assistant of the Visayas (OPAV) through Assistant Sec. Michael Lloyd Dino to lobby for the amount to fund the city’s Integrated Drainage Masterplan (IDM).

Last Sunday in my Facebook page, netizens showed photos of many volunteers cleaning up the Mahiga Creek which separates the City of Cebu and the City of Mandaue, where both Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes met up on the bridge with Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella. What I saw in those photographs confirmed my worse fears that many illegal settlers constructed their homes beside the river banks, often building a few meters into the riverbed which is against the law.

But your guess is as good as mine that these homes were constructed illegally and public officials did not remove them because they are their constituents or voters. This is the very reason why I wanted Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to come up with a lasting legacy by changing the 1987 Constitution to one that reduces the power of politicians to bring misery to our people. 

Also, Councilor Guardo welcomes the creation of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Flooding (IATFF) in the city. In 1983, the city only had 18 flood-prone areas. But a drainage masterplan in 2006 showed the city already has around 127 flood-prone areas. What a sharp increase in just a few years, this is why we should prioritize this project.

Meanwhile, I propose to all Cebu-based members of the House of Representatives to review our laws that created the water districts nationwide, which proposes that all water districts give potable water to its clients. At this time, even the people living in squalid areas no longer drink water from the faucet, but an Automatic Tubig Machine (ATM), so let’s stop flushing our toilets, watering our plants and washing our cars with potable water which is expensive to prepare and come up and enact an amendment to the old law to include the production of  non-potable water which is cheaper to get and filter and serve to our people.

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I’d like to pay tribute to a Cebuano politician who has been nearly forgotten by our people since he has not returned to the life of a politician since he left the government. I’m referring to former governor and former senator Jesus Mariano “Rene” Espina who was governor of Cebu in 1963-1969. I was still in high school in those years. He was once secretary of the Public Works, Transportation and Communications and became a senator in the 7th Congress (1970-1974).

What few people remember him by was that during the term of then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, he implemented the construction of the 1st Mactan Bridge that crossed the Mactan Channel from Mandaue City to Lapu-Lapu City. As senator he authored our first Anti-Drug Law, Republic Act 6425, known as the Anti-Drugs Act of 1972. I last interviewed him in my TV Talkshow on May 29, 2017 a few months after my kidney operation. Rene Espina was a good friend, who always gave me an insight of the old Cebu and national political scene with accuracy for the sake of history.

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