At what cost, progress?

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

There is in the town of Consolacion in Cebu a planned 236-hectare reclamation project that its proponents envision to be a smart city that is able to generate jobs for up to 60,000 people and add P600 million annually to the town coffers. Those are very lip-smacking prospects. No wonder its mayor appears to be all for it.

But the mayor of the town, as with any leader of any political jurisdiction, is obliged to look after the interests of everyone in that jurisdiction, regardless of their worth and value of their contribution to the general well-being therein. A good leader must see to it that no one takes precedence over another, that privileges that may be granted to one will not come at the expense of another.

Unfortunately in this case, that appears to be exactly what is happening. The sun over Consolacion appears to be shining much brighter over the investment of La Consolacion Seafront Development Corp. than the much-older investments that stand to be displaced by the humongous project dubbed "Seafront City".

To be sure, the project will be a tremendous boon to the town. But if even a single soul loses a job, or a single business is rendered irrelevant and useless, then there is a tremendous moral weight that the leader of the town will have to bear. And that is just the moral side of it. Anything that looks too good to be true on paper almost always devalues something else somewhere, perhaps legally, and for which the leader must also bear.

The seafront of Consolacion, because of its location, is dotted with shipyards upon which hundreds of town residents depend for a living. These businesses have long contributed to the town's welfare, have been the backbone of its economy long before the northward economic push swallowed up Consolacion in a fortuitous economic frenzy. And now it seems these old reliables will be left to hang high and dry. They were not even consulted.

For such a huge project with an even bigger impact on existing conditions on the ground, Mayor Joannes Alegado needs to be very open not just about the plan but, more importantly, its implications. All papers pertaining thereto must be made available for public scrutiny and discussion, such as the project proposal, the joint venture agreement, the notice of award, the ordinance legalizing everything and, of course, the environmental okays.

The shipyards, where up to 70% of repair and maintenance of ships from Cebu and other areas are done, are expected to lose to the project access to their maintenance facilities and their safe haven during storms. Yet there is no proposal to address this concern. If these shipyards lose their business, thousands could lose their jobs. And as Cebu is the hub of shipping in the south, this could be a serious blow to a most vital industry.

What benefits the project may bring to Consolacion cannot be allowed to mask and disguise the detrimental effects it will cause. The mayor must not allow the project to proceed as it is unless the concerns of those affected are legitimately and equitably addressed and every living soul in the town walks away happy, requited, and reassured. That is the hallmark of good, clean, mature, and God-fearing leadership.

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