Mayor Rama on the problems of Cebu City

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila - The Freeman

We joined the media meeting with Mayor Michael Rama which was held at the Rizal Library yesterday morning but as I was trying to find a parking space, a small fire struck one of the air conditioners at the side of the building. Thankfully, quick thinking City Hall staffers grabbed the burning aircon and stopped the fire before it could do more damage. I reported this incident to the Mayor to inform him that someone went out to find a fire extinguisher but found none. So this is something that the City of Cebu should fix immediately.

When it came to the question and answer time, once again, I mentioned to Mayor Rama what I already wrote in my previous columns, regarding two buildings that did not meet the minimum parking requirements and why these establishments were given a permit to operate? These are establishments that were once old houses and then transformed into a restaurant coffee shop, which means they had what the Office of the Building Official say is a "Change of use" and therefore are required to put up parking spaces for their establishments. I'm not yet accusing anyone of corruption.

So in front of Metro Cebu Water District Chairman Rene Mercado, Mayor Rama asked him to issue a cease and desist order on those establishments. So let's see how long this order can be implemented under the Rama administration, which works on the slogan "Tarungon ang hiwi" (to straighten the crooked." Speaking of Rene Mercado, he pointed out to me that under his watch, he is seriously looking at potential water sources for Cebu City. I think that this is the first time ever that I heard a chairman of MCWD talk about potential water sources, which is a good thing.

Engr. Fortunato Sanchez, Jr., in a presentation a couple of weeks ago during the Mega Cebu Consultative meeting with Cebu's political leadership, pointed out that in 13 years Bohol was able to come up with three huge dams, while Cebu in the last 93 years had none. We will always remember that the late Sen. Serging Osmeña, Jr. wanted to implement the Lusaran Dam, which at that time was estimated to cost P5 billion. But now it will probably cost upwards to P25 billion for such a project.

Anyway, I told Rene Mercado that we can find a cheaper alternative in the Mananga River, if we put a dam between the mountains near Talisay and Cebu close to where the Manipis Road is located. This would be a less costly project so we could finally get surface water for Metro Cebu. Meanwhile, Engr. Sanchez was also our guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Cebu and he gave the same PowerPoint presentation to our members, who were shocked that nothing was being done to unclog our rivers and creeks.

But to their credit, Mayor Mike Rama, Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, and Talisay City Mayor Johnny de los Reyes to come up with a Drainage Task Force for a Better and Best Cebu. So now, the million peso question is, how do we implement this plan to declog our rivers and creeks? Frankly speaking, all we need to do is measure the entire width of the river from the middle to each side of the river bank and draw a permanent line where no structures are allowed to be built. Then from the downstream, work out a plan to demolish all structures that are within that line.

This can be done by phases… let's say a quarter of a kilometer per year…so those who live upstream can prepare themselves for the reality that they would have to move out or be bulldozed. All we need is political will and Mayor Rama told the media that he will show us his political will if we support him. So we used the example of the fence in TESDA, which has no sidewalk that should be removed to make way for a sidewalk. Mayor Rama challenged everyone if that he goes there to bring that fence down…we would support him. So we told Mayor Rama…when?

On the issue regarding who is right or wrong in the case of Filinvest against the Ayala-owned AsiaTown IT Park, Mayor Rama gave the media the history on how the Ayala's advanced money to have the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center  moved up to Kalunasan Hills. Now I recall that that road in particular was the old road leading to the Control Tower of the old Lahug Airport.

So the question is why is the Cebu Property Ventures and Development Corp. not allowing the Filinvest Building access to this road? So I asked Mayor Rama whether that road, which existed before the AsiaTown IT Park, is a Barangay Road or City Road? He didn't know what it really was. But Mayor Rama told the media that this issue was now in the Courts. Hmmm if you ask me, this is the Battle of the Cronies happening right here in Cebu. Now both companies are cronies of Pres. PNoy Aquino, III. But their quarrel is bad for the growth and development of Cebu and I asked the Mayor that this can be resolved in a meeting that he must preside.

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