JUDGE Allan Francisco Garciano of the Mandaue City Regional Trial Court Branch 83 has issued a status quo ante order, requiring Mayor Joannes Pepito Alegado not to close the shipyards in La Consolacion, Cebu before December 31. With that order, the judge brought a lull in the stormy controversy that has wracked the local government unit the minute it approved the project called Seafront City in Barangay Tayud in the locality. The project involves the reclamation of more than 235.80 hectares of a coastal area that has been home to a thriving shipyard industry, servicing the anchoring, maintenance and repair needs of ships in the Visayan region and Northern Mindanao. The industry has been the lifeblood of the village's some 25,000 residents.
With the order, the judge has put to rest, albeit in a temporary manner, a number of controversial issues that have attended the approval of the project. Foremost among such issues are the facts that the project proponent, La Consolacion Seafront Development Corp. (LCSDC), is Luzon-based and its starting capital is a measly P10 million.
Moreover, it is said that La Consolacion Mayor Alegado failed to produce standard documents normally required of such endeavors, like the project proposal of LCSDC and other attachments; the proposed joint venture agreement of the municipality with LCSDC; the notice of award; and the proposed ordinance of the municipality relative to the project approval. It is beyond us to determine why the mayor failed to do so but it certainly should be obvious that you don't approve such a gargantuan project as a Seafront City without those basic requirements being satisfied first.
Is something being hidden from the public?
It is asked of the mayor, for instance, why shipyards are required to secure a business permit for a shorter period of six months when they had earlier paid for a one-year business permit.
Also, Mayor Alegado allegedly required the shipyards to get a lease agreement with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the use of the foreshore areas in Barangay Tayud, although this was never required for the previous business permits.
Under normal circumstances, projects of this magnitude take time for studies in terms of legalities, technical considerations and impact on community and social welfare, among other concerns.
In the case of the LCSDC, there appears to be an extraordinary rush. The regular requisite documents have been dispensed with, parliamentary protocol (the passage of implementing municipal ordinances), disregarded, and institutionalized procedures modified evidently to suit some special purpose.
To wit, the tenure of business permits hitherto governed by accepted norms suddenly become subject alone to the discretion of the municipal executive.
And to top it all, elections are coming soon. In a while, an election ban on projects like this will be in place. Is the rush manifest in the approval of the Sea Front City project a desperate effort to escape this ban?
Has then the mayor then not been actually facilitating things for the ultimate rise of the Seafront City?
But no, let's not speculate.
On the level, it may be admitted that the La Consolacion seafront development project could result in some nice thing for the folks out there. We got information that the proposed Seafront City is envisioned to generate an estimated 57,000 to 60,000 jobs and an annual income of P600 million for the local government.
Which local government would not appreciate such enormous development?
It is this potential of betterment for the people and the municipality against which any judge would weigh what could be a real disaster otherwise.
One local shipyard entity has this to say on the issue: "Shipyards will lose an area wherein they can stay during storms. The project does not propose a plan on how to address this issue. Maintenance facilities for these shipyards will be displaced, and the reclamation project does not propose a plan on how to address these. In addition to all these, 60 percent to 70 percent of the repair and maintenance of ships from Cebu and Northern Mindanao are being done in the shipyard in Tayud, Consolacion. That's too many jobs and too much income lost for the folks and the local government of La Consolacion."
According to one source, Cebu is the shipping hub of the Visayas. The displacement of the shipyards in La Consolacion would result in a veritable crippling of the entire shipping industry in the region.
Some observers fear that the Sea Front City project offers the potential of a powder keg that could explode massively once put into place.
"Imagine the rage of seafarers, commercial passenger ferries and vessels as well as cargo ship owners who will be up in arms over a project that would threaten their existence," they said.
"These businesses stand to lose millions of pesos in their investments. If they would lose them, it is possible that they could stop operating forever."
"If the Consolacion mayor really cares about his citizens, then he should never allow the reclamation project to proceed as it is," he said.
Anyway, it is better to just keep faith with the wisdom of the judicial process. Judge Garciano has ordered no disturbance of the shipyards of La Consolacion until December 2021. This means all actions of the mayor to the contrary are put on hold. All stakeholders in the undertaking can take time gathering legal weapons with which to counter the ones unleashed by Mayor Alegado and hope for the best.