A Singapore-like launch pad

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide - The Freeman

The continuing clash of opinions generated by the “Singapore-like” battle cry of the Honorable Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, demonstrates the depth of Cebuanos’ awareness of public issues and our willingness to say freely our piece of mind. Some though feel too free as to make fun of Mayor Rama by mimicking his voice while saying “Singapore-like”. Still others vilify him with unprintable expletives. Of course, there are extravagant praises coming from city hall’s identified friends as there are profound criticisms coming from the more responsible citizens.

Of the several announced programs related to Singapore-like, it is his so-called “gubat kontra baha” that is central. Actually, the mayor uses the word war, not programs, each time he talks about these projects if only to emphasize his intent. Compared to Mayor Rama’s other wars, this “gubat kontra baha” should directly interest a greater portion of his constituents. He will meet serious opposition from those affected. Here, his political will faces big time challenge. But, I am optimistic that if he gives it his heart and full attention, this program is both doable and beneficial. Really, this is a kind of “war” that, if planned meticulously and pursued vigorously, can bring us closer to Singapore-like.

Mahiga river serves as the boundary of adjoining Barangays Kasambagan and Mabolo in Cebu City and Banilad and Subangdako in Mandaue City. Many settlers, both rich and poor alike, have intruded into the river and its banks. It is a blatant disregard for law. Some rich families erected their concrete perimeter walls that visibly ate into Mahiga’s river bed while there are stilts supporting poor men’s houses that also jut out of the water. With narrowed waterway and heavily silted bed, the situation is predictable. In cases of heavy rain, the resulting raging floodwater leaps beyond the narrowed banks.

The location of Mahiga River demands its rightful attention if the Rama administration’s Singapore-like dream were to take off. For the mayor to approximate his vision, it becomes imperative to make this waterway as a showcase of how to take care of our natural resources. What must our city leadership include in its program to make Mahiga a gem of a river?

It will not be easy for Mayor Rama to uproot the informal settlers who have practically usurped the banks of Mahiga River. His mettle will be put to a severe test because many of them are, most probably, his supporters, politically speaking. But, he has one legal tool at hand. These structures are built on areas which are considered legal easements. Mayor Rama can use this legal principle to calm any social unrest. He just needs to get out his air conditioned office and face a restive crowd in his most fatherly image. Let him explain that his only option is to uphold the law.

To placate the feelings of squatters. the mayor must push for their resettlement. He cannot just bulldoze these houses and leave their owners exposed to the elements. But before resettling them however, their residence in the city, has to be verified. For this purpose, a system has to be established. Those already rooted in the city need to be accommodated in the city’s resettlement areas. Prople whose stay here can be considered as temporary, at best, have to be sent back to their places of origin.

When the Mahiga River and its banks shall have been cleared of intruders, one of the biggest obstacle to Singapore-like is removed. Rama’s dream will have a starting pad.

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