Can’t see the forest for the trees

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - January 14, 2021 - 12:00am

Too many minute details presented during long-winded discussions often thwart the achievement of a desired goal targeted by a given deliberative forum. Rather than illumine the topic under consideration, the deluge of details tends to cloud the issue and prevents progress instead. There is a common expression that is applicable to this situation. It is “can’t see the forest for the trees”. The example provided by the internet to explain the term is very graphic “the congressman became so involved in the wording of his bill that he couldn't see the forest for the trees; he did not realize that the bill could never pass.”

The Carbon Public Market has been the main source of many of our staple. We get our rice, corn, meat, fish vegetable and most consumer items from that market. Even when grocery stores and malls have sprouted all over the city, we still patronize the Carbon for many good reasons. But, what we knew of the market decades ago, seemed largely to continue today. Its structure and the way goods are sold are as they were since time immemorial. If I say that the Carbon market has defied time, I may not get into serious debate.

Reinventing this facility, as to upgrade it, is arguably an urgent call. Upgrading is an understatement. We, Cebuanos, deserve a new Carbon market that is a quantum leap in every aspect compared to its present condition. This principal facility needs to be re-engineered to meet the highest demands of health and sanitation and public comfort. Understandably, the cost is a big challenge. Since the city’s finances are tied in many basic services, it can lean on this thing called Public-Private-Partnership (PPP). This must be in the mind of Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, when he entertained the idea of entering into a contract with a private corporation to develop the Carbon market.

A draft of a Joint Venture Agreement was given to the city council together with a resolution granting the mayor authority to sign it. The project is really good and perhaps on account of the urgency to sign the contract, it breezed through the sanggunian with nary a question. I have the draft which provides for a seemingly interminable period of 50 years and browsed through it as uninterestingly as one would read a newspaper. But, even if I have not put it under microscopic study, I came upon some provisions that would have deserved further discussion among our councilors. Conscious that I “can’t see the forest for the trees”, I will limit myself to just one point of concern. I will take up more concerns in future articles.

The draft MOA seems to allow the private party to form a Special Purpose Company (PSP) to assume all (of its) rights, responsibilities and obligations” in pursuing to the JVA. The explanation can be that it is necessary to create this other company, a subsidiary, to focus on the project because the principal is involved with too many other undertakings. I believe this is standard practice. But, do our councilors know that the city, if the contract pushes through, will be dealing with an entity other than the private party? If something undesirable happens, say 30 years forward, the city can, theoretically speaking, only demand from this SPC? Yet, wonder of all wonders, the JVA variably mentions both the private company and the SPC in some indistinct provisions. In my lawyers’ instinct, this is a red flag.

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