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Rama clarifies Carbon modernization issues

CEBU City Vice Mayor Michael “Mike” Rama has issued a public statement dated April 18, 2021 to clarify issues once again regarding the controversial Carbon Market modernization program.

Rama, a lawyer, said that conjectures flew when they suggested postponing the groundbreaking of the new Cebu Carbon Market.

“My intent is to cure the vulnerable Joint Venture Agreement or JVA between the City of Cebu and Megawide Construction Corp. so that it would stand on solid ground, strong enough to avoid any attack of its integrity,” Rama said.

Rama shared the facts and the reasons of his stand on the issue.

“Again, I am not against the project. There are aspects in the JVA that needs to be corrected before construction begins to ensure that the deal is just to the City, the stakeholders of Carbon, and even the developer.

“Thus, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) is very much needed to cover, first the agreements made with the vendors at the Mayor’s Office last March 23 and the others, including myself as a taxpayer, which still need to be addressed in open democratic discussion.”

“During the session before the City Council approved the JVA at 10-8 on Jan. 6, 2021, I then pointed out, when I stepped down as presiding officer and be part as member, some disturbing facts and lapses of procedure noted by my legal consultant that must be addressed, along with the need to produce documents to support the legitimacy and fairness of the deal.”

“Second is the procedure in the manner the City forged the JVA. It should have a public hearing. For the greater part, it puts in question the legitimacy of the contract that can be challenged in a court of law.”

Being an undertaking or a contract of great local importance, a public hearing is highly recommended to avoid it being assailed as “lutong macao”, especially that the JVA is a 50-year agreement.

An ordinance that carries penalty requires a public hearing as part of the process. The public hearing will guide the Council on better judgment of the propriety of the ordinance. How much more for this JVA of 50 years? If properly approved, it can be defended.

By Parliamentary Procedure, majority prevailed last Jan. 6, regardless of the validity of the concerns.

He said the Council members only had less than a month to review the JVA. It was given only a few days before the Christmas holidays, not much time for thorough open discussion that would allow scrutiny.

Rama does not wish to stop this project. He has been most aggressive in terms of progressive projects. But he is also very staunch in doing things right. More than their advocacy for progress is their duty to protect the welfare and interest of their constituents and to uphold the law.

“The public knows Carbon Market more as Units 1, 2 and 3, not what we know as Freedom Park and Warwick Barracks. The public is not aware that the Carbon we associate with in this area will become no more,” Rama said.

He said the JVA allows Megawide to develop it for commercial purposes, not for the current vendors. What will remain of the Carbon Market we know will be lumped into the planned buildings at Freedom Park and Warwick Barracks.

Rama added that propriety needs to be clarified in Freedom Park and Warwick Barracks, especially that these bear cultural and historical heritage. Otherwise, the JVA becomes vulnerable.

Be that as it may, let it be clear on record that I am fighting for the restoration of Freedom Park, much more that its preservation is mandated by the National Historical Commission, he said.

Rama said it is a clearly established fact that most members of the City Council, whether belonging to majority or minority, either failed or lacked ample time to read the entirety of the JVA.

He said that this is a matter of accountability. As a public office is a public trust, we are morally bound to thoroughly discuss the terms of the contract, and ensure it is not grossly disadvantageous to the City and the stakeholders of Carbon.

He added that City Councilor Nestor Archival asked on Jan. 6 to defer any act on the JVA for a week to allow councilors to review it with scrutiny. “I asked to defer the groundbreaking on March 24, 2021 so we could first cure potential concerns of the same JVA.”

Rama said that if the Council members are given time to dissect the JVA yet on Jan. 6, such proposition as calling for public hearing should have been insisted by anyone to avoid the perception of it as lutong macao. Now, such contract ideally can be referred as “giluto ta sa atong kaugalingong mantika.”

Rama added that more scrutiny should be made to determine if the City’s annual guaranteed shares from the market operations is a fair deal. How much does the City now earn from Carbon?

“I trust that Megawide will uphold its sense of corporate responsibility. While I am protecting the interest of the City and the stakeholders of Carbon, it is also their interest that gets protected in the long run,” Rama said.

“I am confident it will be open to similarly cure the JVA so it will stand on solid ground, strong enough to fend off any attack on its integrity,” Rama said. ELIAS O. BAQUERO