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Still no permit from the NHCP

By: Jobers R. Bersales July 04,2018 - 09:10 PM

I received word from someone who late last week wrote the chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) that the NHCP has not issued any permit to allow the Cebu provincial government to proceed with its high-rise building as of this writing.

NHCP chair Dr. Rene Escalante, I am told, stated in this latest letter that the Cebu provincial government has not submitted any new plan to address the concerns communicated formally by the NHCP in its letter sent March last year. Therefore no permit from the NHCP is forthcoming. To recall, in its March 2017 letter-response, the NHCP deemed the 20-storey building ‘too high’ and requested Capitol to submit a new plan to address this concern aside from the issue of respecting balance and symmetry of the heritage asset, the 80-year-old Cebu Capitol Building. Incidentally, this letter was never mentioned even in the public hearing.

Now comes this second letter sent to a concerned citizen. I believe that, given this reply, the possibility that the NHCP or some group will go to court should the provincial government proceed sans this required approval is possible.

Further to this issue, instead of a response from Gov. Hilario Davide III on the allegations made by a certain Archt. John Ray Jimenez in last week’s column, I got instead very welcome comments to my column from no less than Roberto ‘Babbitt’ Ybañez, a colleague of former governor Emilio ‘Lito O’ Osmeña. Babbitt was also elected to the provincial board during Lito O’s brief but very productive and historically groundbreaking, visionary term.

To recall, it was Gov. Lito O who first broached the idea of moving the Cebu Capitol out of Cebu City some three decades before today’s traffic-congested time. Nothing can be more visionary than that.

Babbitt states: “If the project (the new Cebu Capitol high rise building) was originally intended to provide more office space for the provincial government’s own needs, then it should have first studied…whether it has the right number of employees, or, as I suspect, it is overstaffed in the first place. Second, if indeed it is not overstaffed, then, it should just put up a building or buildings to accommodate such staff. This would result to a much smaller building.

According to him, an LGU competing with the private sector “in a well developed real estate market such as Cebu City goes against the free enterprise spirit of the Constitution.” He deems it UNFAIR (yes, in capital letters) to the private sector when competing against an LGU, since the latter does not pay real property taxes, business permits, business and income taxes.

“But the real anomaly,” he writes, “is the absence of meaningful programs now or in the future which this administration is pursuing. I dare say that many voters suspect that this is nothing but fundraising for the 2019 elections.”

He adds: “It all boils down to one question: What essential service is the provincial government unable to do because of “overcrowding”? By essential service, I mean a service which, if not done, would cause injury or worse to Cebuanos? I can only name hospital/health services and the detention center as truly essential services. Even engineering can be downsized to just planning and design, preparation of bid and tender documents, as construction can always be outsourced. Agriculture? Lito O asked the then provincial agriculturist to answer what would happen to the province’s farmers if the whole department was on leave for a year. Hahaha, the answer given was: Nothing; Our farmers would survive. Multiply that to the other offices and you get the picture.

Babbit makes this important caveat, though, that his comments should not be interpreted to mean that he is anti-Davide or pro-Garcia, given the publicly proclaimed intent of Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia to run anew for governor next year.

You can read more of my good friend Babbitt’s comments on last week’s column posted on my Facebook page. They are very good reading, especially for those who lack vision in governance.

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TAGS: from, NHCP, No, permit, STILL

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