What Cebu needs

BETTER infrastructure and effective solutions to decongest Cebu’s roads of traffic topped the to-do list for the next set of local officials.

As the official campaign for local positions began yesterday, we asked several sources, both in government and the private sector, to name the top three things they believe Cebu’s officials must address.

The list included: support for a Mega Cebu Development Authority, better Internet connectivity, innovative housing, water resource management, and a no-nonsense campaign to stop the illegal drug trade.

The campaign is now down to its last six weeks. In Cebu, which has 2.72 million voters, 54 executive positions are at stake. These are the governorship and the mayor’s offices in nine cities and 44 towns. Also being contested are seats in the local councils and the Provincial Board.

Competitiveness

Some leaders of Cebu’s business community would like the new local officials to extend full support for the Mega Cebu Development Authority (MCDA), saying this will “equate to better livability and competitiveness for Cebu.”

“We can’t be a paradise of livability and competitiveness if we don’t have clean water, and if we, investors, residents and tourists, have to waste time in traffic; and if we are covered in garbage and septic tank waste,” said Gordon Alan Joseph, president of the Cebu Business Club.

According to Joseph, who is also co-chair of the Metro Cebu Development Coordinating Board (MCDCB), about 70 percent of homes still lack proper septic tanks, which means that waste leaches into the ground and water tables.

“This is what Mega Cebu is all about. We are pushing for and organizing and planning and executing multi-sectoral collaboration to speed the entire Cebu toward livability and modernity through planned, educated and focused development and sound governance,” said Joseph.

Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Melanie Ng said in a separate interview that the realization of the MCDA would be a big boost for Cebu.

Faster Internet

By overseeing development initiatives “as a coordinating, regulatory and policy-making body involving government, private and multi-sectoral groups in Cebu in a concerted effort,” the MCDA will help drive economic growth and investment for the province, she added.

The bill to create the MCDA has been approved at the committee level of the House of Representatives, but has run out of time in this administration.

To catch up to Cebu’s fast development, Ng said, local officials also need to fast-track infrastructure, particularly road development and transportation to ease traffic.

Another top concern, she added, is connectivity.

“Internet speed has been a perennial problem that has not yet been addressed. I hope the next administration will come up with a solution to solve this problem. The speed and efficiency of how we do business and use digital tools over the Internet will greatly improve if we have faster Internet,” said Ng.

Philip Tan, a past president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also raised the need for better and more affordable telecommunications services, among others.

Cebu, he said, needs a fairer share of government resources.

“Cebu is one of the highest revenue generators for the National Government. It is unfortunate that we are not getting as much as we have paid for,” Tan added.

For Roberto Go, Philippine Retailers’ Association-Cebu president, the top issue is infrastructure, including a light rail transit system and a new international port.

“We already have port congestion, and five years down the road, it will be monstrous,” he said.

Local priorities

But in order to fix the traffic problem, one local official said that infrastructure must be complemented by a change in people’s behavior.

People need to shift from depending on private cars to using mass transportation, said architect Florentino Nimor, head of the Mandaue City Planning and Development Office and executive director of the Traffic Enforcement Agency of Mandaue.

Government, he said, should be the “first to initiate in providing high-quality mass transport and a well-planned inter-modal transport system on a metropolitan scale.”

“If these will be realized, road widening would not even be needed and ‘the dignity of travel’ would be achieved. After all, transport planning is how to move people and goods efficiently,” Nimor said.

While mass transport also turned up in the lists of local appointive and elective officials, they also mentioned the need for housing.

Nimor said government officials should adopt housing programs just like the medium-rise structures in Singapore, but must strive for amortization or rental rates that are affordable.

Two weeks ago, more than 2,300 families lost their homes when a fire hit Barangays Guizo and Mantuyong in Mandaue City. These families now stay on the Cebu International Convention Center grounds because no relocation site is available, as yet.

“It’s crucial to choose able, dedicated and non-conventional leaders this coming election, both local and national,” Nimor added.

Housing

Addressing the lack of housing, particularly for illegal settlers on danger zones, also made it to the top three list of Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, who is seeking reelection.

With at least 10,000 persons still living in Cebu City’s danger zones, like the banks of rivers and creeks, Rama described housing and relocation as “a nagging matter that I would really like to confront, along with the majority.”

Rama also vowed to improve solid waste management. Since last year, the City has received complaints about the failure to segregate and to promptly collect garbage in some of the city’s 80 barangays.

While Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella agreed with the need to prioritize housing, he also brought up the need for better traffic management and solutions to the drainage problem.

Poor drainage and the flooding that it leads to can affect a wide range of social issues, he pointed out, like health and productivity in schools and workplaces.

That’s something that came up in Architect Nimor’s list, too.

“The process of diverting rainwater runoff directly back to the ground can also address flood mitigation,” he said.

Enforcement

Like most of our sources, a religious leader also raised the need for more bridges and a train system for Cebu.

But for the economy to keep growing, Bishop Joy Bendoy also brought up the need to curb the illegal drug problem more rapidly. Bendoy chairs the Evangelical Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

“It is unfortunate that our government officials, including those who are in uniform, are not very serious and committed in eliminating illegal drugs and the people behind this demonic work,” he said.

Corruption also needs to be addressed at the local level, he added.

Expansion

For Rep. Ace Durano (Cebu Province, 5th District), the top three issues are transport infrastructure, the need to link agriculture to tourism, and the development of tourism infrastructure.

On transport infrastructure, Durano said, technology and systems are important to integrate air, land and sea transport in the island. The mass transport system in Metro Cebu must also be modernized.

Tourist destinations outside Metro Cebu can be developed further by investing in appropriate infrastructure to make these destinations safer and more convenient to tourists, Durano added.

The former tourism secretary now serves as campaign manager for presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe.

For Rep. Wilfredo S. Caminero (Cebu Province, 2nd District), what’s needed are solutions to traffic congestion, rural infrastructure (better roads and access to water and power), and a sustainable agriculture program.

Making Cebu more resilient to disasters needs to be a priority, said Rep. Ashley Acedillo (Party-list, Magdalo). His list also included maintaining energy sufficiency and addressing the problems that arise from urban development, like traffic congestion, urban poverty, waste management, and crime.

“Leaders of Cebu Province and Cebu City must give priority to developing the 13 local government units under the Mega Cebu Development Strategy, and expand the focus beyond the cities of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu,” Acedillo said.

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