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Analysis, Cebu Politics, News Updates, Political Personalities

Flyover issue: Tom-Joy vs. Mike-Jack preview?

By Bong Galarpe (Contributor)

PRESIDENT Simeon Benigno Aquino III and the Department of Public Works and Highways have yet to decide on whether to push through or not with the construction of the two proposed flyover projects in Cebu City.

The largely middle class Movement for a Livable Cebu has been quite vocal in pushing for a comprehensive development plan for Cebu first before even thinking of constructing more flyovers. Mayor Michael Rama has identified himself with this group.

The burden of choice, however, lies heavily on the shoulders of the president who is caught between a rock and a hard place regarding this controversial issue as he is politically allied with both the proponents and the opposition of the flyover projects.

Congresswoman Rachel Marguerite Del Mar, with the full backing of her father – former deputy House speaker Raul Del Mar, has arranged for the P600-million funding for the flyovers, while Mayor Michael Rama, who has been pushing for a transportation master plan in the city, is against the projects.

Rep. Cutie Del Mar has criticized the DPWH and strongly objected to the deferment of the projects. Last October, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson ordered the suspension of the projects until unresolved issues were addressed.

Like Rama, Singson also said before any flyover is to be constructed a transportation master plan has to be completed first.

“I am appalled at how the flyover projects can just easily be suspended on the objections of some civil society, non-government organizations, and politicians,” Del Mar said in a statement.

She said the construction of the flyovers could not just easily be suspended as the bidding has already been conducted.

Some local political observers scoff at this pronouncement by Del Mar, saying since the bidding has been conducted and awarded to some construction company then “kickbacks” may have already been dispensed out.

“This is perhaps why Del Mar is pushing for the construction of the flyovers because maybe she already got her commission off these projects,” a political observer, who requested anonymity, told this writer in jest.

However, political analysts are seeing another picture in this brouhaha over the flyovers. They say this is a preview of the elections in 2013.

While Del Mar has the strong support of fellow Representative Tomas Osmeña and the BOPK-dominated City Council, Rama surprisingly has the backing of former City Councilor, now CITOM Board chairman Sylvan “Jack” Jakosalem.

Jakosalem, who believes the DPWH listened to Citom which conducted a study and passed a resolution citing technicalities that would make the flyovers not feasible, ran for councilor in 2005 under the BOPK and has since been identified as among Osmeña’s boys.

Has there been a falling out between Tommy and Jack? One wonders.

“There’s no love lost between them yet, at least not on paper,” analysts say. “But knowing Tomas, soon there will be. “

They said Jakosalem has political ambitions and plans, too. They believe Jack wants to run for a higher office in 2013, and a team-up with Rama is not very farfetched.

Are they saying we should expect a Tommy-Joy vs. Mike-Jack in the elections two years from now? This is a political showdown worth watching out for.

In the opposing side are Mayor Michael Rama, some businessmen whose interests are affected by the construction and some religious organizations, especially the nuns at the Asilo Dela Milagrosa.

Businessman Joel Lee, a convenor of the Movement for Livable Cebu, which is strongly opposing the flyovers, is the proprietor of Casa Gorordo Hotel along Gorordo Ave., the site of one of the flyovers.

Is the crusade of Mr. Lee not vested with personal and business interest? Well, all the stakeholders, whether they are pro and anti, have their own personal interest.

PNoy tasked the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to conduct a traffic study on the areas where the two flyovers will be constructed. They are given one month to come up with the result. The result might be the gauge and basis of the chief executive to come up with a decision. The Del Mars claimed they gained the upper hand on PNoy’s order. While the opposition expressed disappointment over the President’s decision, it was not fair, they claimed. Well, to the anti, don’t give up yet. The ball is still round. Keep on lobbying.

But how true is this information I gathered that Ayala is also lobbying for Malacañang not to proceed with the flyover in Gorordo Ave. as it will affect one of their major entrances and exit roads at the Cebu Business Park, that road where the Motorola office is? The foot of the flyover will be in that area. So, vehicles from Ayala can no longer exit going to Gorordo side. If this is true, Ayala’s lobbying is again vested with personal interest.

I am afraid that Malacañang will succumb to pressure by big corporations like the Ayalas.

We don’t really need flyovers if the opposition to the projects can provide immediate solution to the worsening traffic congestion in the city.

That road-widening they envisioned is just full of rhetoric. Puro yawyaw lang. Unya abtan tag siyam-siyam ana. Who will secure the funds? It is more expensive because the government has to acquire those privately-owned lots through just compensation.

And if the lot owners will not agree to the price offered by the government, they will go to court. And imagine that court litigation will go on for several years. That’s what happened to Escario St. extension road. It’s not yet finished because there is a pending litigation.

Are the nuns at the Asilo and Mr. Lee willing to give up a portion of their respective properties for road widening by accepting whatever price the government would offer to them? I doubt. We need a network of flyovers to smoothen the traffic situation. We have no choice, we are going in that direction.

I don’t want to blame our past political leaders and urban planners, but they lacked foresight for Cebu City in the next 50 years.

Look at Metro Manila now. It has numerous flyovers. I can imagine how traffic would be more terrible if it didn’t have flyovers and tunnels. If we don’t want flyovers, then fast-track the envisioned Metro Rail Transit or the Bus Rapid Transit.

But the problem in these projects is that our political leaders cannot get their acts together because of personal and political interest.

About anol_cebu

As chief digital officer of PRworks Inc., Emmanuel Mongaya manages the digital communications of the public relations agency. He also blogs, writes columns for Sun.Star Cebu and Superbalita, and serves as administrator for “Maghisgot Kitag Politika Bay,” Cebu’s dynamic political community in Facebook.

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