Downtown as Chinatown seen as huge tourist drawer
Carlo S. Lorenciana (The Freeman) - May 1, 2018 - 9:52pm

CEBU, Philippines — Turning Cebu's downtown area into a Chinatown could be a great tourist attraction for the city, according to a business leader.

Cebuano-Chinese businessman Robert Go expressed his support to the proposal of turning Cebu's prime commercial district into Chinatown.

"Cebu downtown as Chinatown is just appropriate just like Binondo in Manila," said Go, who owns a supermarket chain, the main store of which is located in Cebu's downtown area.

Go, president of the Philippine Retailers Association-Cebu, pointed out the significant presence of Chinese traders in the downtown area.

"Cebu downtown is full of stores owned by Chinese immigrants," the businessman told The FREEMAN yesterday.

Most of them, he said, are the newly settled new generation Chinese who are doing business here. 

"Naming it as Chinatown may be appropriate," he said.

Go suggested that if ever this plan pushes through, there must be a "Chinese roof style arc with dragon heads somewhere in Magallanes and Carbon."

"It's just recreation of streets," he noted.

Go recalled that Parian area during Spanish time used to be the Chinatown in Cebu occupied by Chinese traders.

The Cebuano-Chinese businessman also cited the photos of the old Chinatown in Cebu posted in the old Gotiaco building across the Prince Supermarket store, which he owns.

"There has long been a strong Chinese presence in this part of Cebu. And having an established Chinatown could be an attraction for tourists," Go said.

During the Spanish period, downtown Cebu City was already a bustling center for trade and commerce.

Earlier, City Councilor Jerry Guardo proposed to convert the entire downtown area into a Chinatown center.

In his proposed measure introduced before the council, Guardo said the creation of a Chinatown in Cebu City will recognize the contribution of the private sector, especially the people with Chinese ancestry, in the economic growth of the city’s downtown area.

“The whole downtown area of Cebu City, the prime commercial district of the city, is languishing at the business cellar and needs to be afforded attention and concern by the city government as it was once the proud business center of our Tsinoy brothers and would be future tourist destination for the city,”  Guardo’s proposed ordinance reads.

If approved, his draft measure will pave the way for the creation of the Cebu City Chinatown Development Council (CCCDC) which will formulate guidelines to carry out the objectives of the ordinance.

CCCDC will be composed of the mayor as the chairman; City Council’s chairman on culture and tourism as vice chairman; and the chairmen of council committees on infrastructure and on trade and industry as members.

Other members will be the head of Department of Engineering and Public Works, city planning officer, Cebu City Transportation Office head, Cebu City Environment and Natural Resources head, representative from Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and a representative from Chinese educational institution, among others.

Under the plan, the Cebu City Planning and Development Office will be designated to define the bounds of the downtown area covered by the Chinatown center.

CCCDC will be made to prepare and adopt a development plan which includes a welcome arch into the Chinatown, as well as other architectural, landscape, and engineering designs. It will also formulate the guidelines for the implementation and monitoring of the plan.

Guardo has proposed that the city government appropriate P2 million as initial funding for the improvement of structures like the installation of welcome arch, among others.

To ensure that the Chinatown will be visited by tourists and residents, cultural activities shall be done that would feature activities like a Chinatown festival during Chinese New Year. A night market will also be institutionalized.

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