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Cebu News

City’s JV committee to face raps

Mae Fhel K. Gom-os - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  The Cebu CFI Community Cooperative (CFI) yesterday threatened to file a criminal complaint against the Joint Venture Selection Committee that gave the green light for Megawide Construction Corp.’s proposal to redevelop the Carbon Public Market in Cebu City.

CFI earlier expressed interest in pursuing the project but the committee led by City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. allegedly refused to furnish the former with the formal instructions to interested private sector participants even as it tendered the required P50,000 deposit.

Yesterday, a day after the Cebu City government, through Mayor Edgardo Labella, signed the formal deal with Megawide, the cooperative issued a statement saying it will lodge a complaint against the committee before the Office of the Ombudsman.

CFI did not indicate what case or cases it will file. Nonetheless, it said: “We are preparing criminal charges before the Ombudsman’s office against the Joint Venture Committee members of the City of Cebu. We hope to file this criminal complaint in the coming days, not later than next week.”

The cooperative is now securing a copy of the formal agreement the city signed with the corporation.

The FREEMAN tried to reach Casas for comment yesterday but to no avail.

Refused?

CFI chairman Winston Garcia first raised their concern on the alleged refusal in a letter dated October 16, 2020 addressed to JVSC chairman Casas.

In justifying the snub, JVSC argued that the CFI failed to submit a written notarized Notice of Expression of Interest (EOI) to submit a comparative proposal on or before October 16, 2020.

In addition, the committee said there was no proof that the cooperative had undertaken and completed a similar project, whose value is pegged at P2.5 billion.

To Garcia, however, the refusal was “not only indicative of the utter lack of sincerity of your committee to conduct a fair, honest and transparent public challenge to the unsolicited proposal of Megawide, it was unreasonable and ridiculous, to say the least.”

In short, Garcia added, the public invitation for a challenge to a multi-billion project appeared to be rigged in favor of the original proponent.

Garcia said it is bad enough that an interested participant was only given 10 days to submit a comparable proposal to a multi-billion project.

“Your committee refuses to furnish the needed information in order to properly appraise and enable the interested participant to prepare for the particular type of development project it will be challenging and the rules for its challenge,” he said.

That time, Garcia believed that the action taken by JVSC against their request may be construed as giving unwarranted advantage and benefits to the original proponent to the prejudice of the CFI and the public.

He also pointed out that the invitation for a public challenge to the unsolicited proposal of Megawide Construction Corp. was then premature, highly irregular, and illegal. After all, the proposed project and its terms of engagement were not yet approved by the Cebu City Council that time.

Vendors ‘worried’

After all was said and done, the agreement with Megawide cleared with the council and was eventually signed by Labella.

Louie Ferrer, chief corporate affairs and branding officer of Megawide Construction Corp., said the project, which may be completed in three to four years, is expected to start March this year.

Labella promised that no vendors would be affected.

But the Cebu Market Vendors Multipurpose Cooperative (CEMVEDCO) remains disconcerted even with the mayor’s assurances.

“The project is good, per se, beautiful, nice, pretty, would be beneficial to all. But when you look at the JVA (joint venture agreement), nahadlok mi, nabalaka mi, naguol mi. Daghan terms sa JVA nakapa-worried like the operation and management, stalls, rental and its increases,” said CEMVEDCO board chairman Erwin Gok-ong.

Over the 13 months they have been meeting with Megawide officials, Gok-ong said there were several questions the company was unable to give “concrete, clear and specific answers.”

He said that two weeks before the City Council authorized Labella to sign the JVA, he was “alarmed” after reading a copy of it. They tried seeking an audience with the mayor but to no avail due to the latter’s hectic schedule.

No public hearing?

Gok-ong said Vice Mayor Michael Rama explained to them that the resolution authorizing Labella was passed by 10 councilors who voted for it “without thoroughly reading the entire JVA as they only read a portion of the contract.”

He also claimed that they were not invited to a public hearing.

“We had a position paper ready for us to present before the council when they would discuss the matter. But we were not invited. There was no public hearing,” he said.

If the stipulations in the copy of JVA he obtained hold, Gok-ong said CEMVEDCO, the Cebu City United Vendors Association (CCUVA) and barangay officials of Ermita will continue to oppose the project.

“But why did we not oppose the project on the day of the contract signing? It is because Mayor Labella and Hon. Raymond Garcia and, of course, Vice Mayor Mike Rama assured us, promised us that they will not abandon the vendors and the whole City of Cebu,” he said.

Gok-ong said around 1,500 stallholders and more than 3,000 sidewalk vendors, karomateros, sikad drivers, e-bike drivers and thousands of sitio residents stand to be affected by the project.

Megawide’s assurance

After the signing on Monday, Ferrer told reporters that the project will be shouldered 100 percent by Megawide.

It will be done in phases with first phase set to cost P5 billion and targeted to start by March.

Among the first components of the project is a night market near Compania Maritima building, which is envisioned to be operational by October.

“It will be followed by other developments in the area, so pasulod ta,” said Ferrer.

He also mentioned that even with the ongoing construction, the Carbon market will still be operational.

In favor

Not all are against the project, though.

Shirley Cardinez, member of the Cebu Vendors Credit Cooperative, welcomed the redevelopment of Carbon “with a big heart.”

“Nalipay kaayo mi ani nga madayon na gyud ang project kay dugay na gyud ni namo gipaabot. It will help expand local economy. Inig mahuman na ni, dagdan matabangang vendors of locally-made products, vegetables,” she was quoted as saying in an infographic posted on the Facebook page of Labella.

Vendor Erwin Loregas is also amenable to the project provided that all vendors could still sell their goods to sustain their respective families’ needs. — JMD (FREEMAN)

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