Former Mayor Alvin Garcia to push Waterfront dream project

By Doris C. Bongcac |April 24,2014 - 10:30 AM

City Hall has given former mayor Alvin Garcia a fresh six months consultancy contract to give him more time to realize his dream venture, the Waterfront Development Project.

The City Council yesterday approved his contract extension along with 17 other consultants.
Garcia, who was city mayor from 1995 to 2001, was first hired as consultant when Mayor Michael Rama started his second term in July 1, 2013.

During his administration, Garcia tried to push the multi-billion Waterfront Development Project that would cover Fort San Pedro all the way to the Carbon Market.

The vision was to transform the district into a historical and cultural attraction patterned after the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, California in the United States.

Part of the project was the construction of a tunnel connecting Plaza Indepencia to Sergio Osmeña Boulevard with access roads in Pasil and Carbon.

The Magellan’s Cross, the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and other historical sites will be spruced up in the waterfront project. Also included in the 45-hectare project are the construction of an aquarium, a maritime museum, a landmark tower, a convention center and hotel, world trade center, fast ferry terminal, fish market and a performing arts center.

The project, estimated to cost between P8 to P12 billion, is to be funded by the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) of Japan.

The ambitious project however, failed to materialize after Garcia lost to Tomas Osmeña in the 2001 mayoral race.

Osmeña and Garcia were close friends then, but their relationship turned sour during the latter’s second term.

At yesterday’s session, Councilor Margot Osmeña asked if the Waterfront Development Commission created through an ordinance passed in 1996 during the administration of her husband, Tomas, remains functional to oversee the city’s implementation of its Waterfront Development Project.

Osmeña asked for a report of the commission’s activities and its current composition.

Councilor Sisinio Andales pointed out that the commission does not also appear in the list of active commissions and special bodies under the Office of the Mayor published in the city’s handbook.

Garcia said in his accomplishment report that members of the commission meet at least once every month to discuss the city’s Waterfront Development Project.

The former mayor furnished the City Council a report of his accomplishments as city hall consultant from July to December 2013.

Garcia said that the commission already started implementing the project with the closure of a portion of Magallanes St. which used to separate the city hall complex from the Magellan’s Cross.

In the absence of a road in the area, the cross now stands in the middle of what is now known as the Plaza Sugbu.

He also said in his report that the commission is now planning on further expanding the coverage of the Waterfront Development Project to include the development of coastal areas up to the vicinity of the San Nicolas district in the southern part of the city, which is also part of the “old Cebu.”

Rama has earlier planned to restore the Warwick Plaza, just a few meters from the Carbon Market, which was formerly occupied by vendors but was hit by a big fire in December last year.

In the book “A Glimpse of Old Cebu” by Lucy Urgello, Warwick was showed as an open space in 1915 and part of a barracks which housed American soldiers across the Freedom Park.

Heritage concepts

Architect Joy Martinez-Onozawa who was appointed as managing director of the project on September 2013, has started introducing some heritage concepts, which include the preservation of heritage structures and sites in the area.

Garcia said that they would soon be asking the City Council to introduce some legislative interventions that will allow amendments in the zoning ordinance, among others, in order to convert the city’s waterfront area into a “Special Design District” for them to implement their heritage preservation concept.

“All subsequent requests for building permits in the area must be approved by the commission,” his report said.

The commission also tapped the participation of the Cebu Ports Authority (CPA) and officials of the coastal barangays of Ermita and San Roque to hasten project planning and implementation.

Councilor Mary Ann delos Santos, a Rama ally, told her colleagues that she sits as a member of the commission and is well aware that Rama sits as chairman of the commission.

However, she could not ascertain whom Rama appointed to function as the commission’s presiding officer.

Pending the submission of the commission’s accomplishment report and composition, the council went on to approve Garcia’s contract renewal until June 2014.

Other consultants who got the nod of the City Council include former councilor Franklyn Seno, consultant on Hilly Land Development and Management Office: Dr. Librand Macaraya, consultant for the parks and playgrounds commission; Ida Yting, consultant on scholarship program; Angel Espiritu, consultant on protocol and consular affairs and lawyer Emmanuel Pacquiao, consultant on legal affairs for the office of the vice mayor.

Vice Mayor Edgar Labella told the City Council that the namesake of the boxing icon is a bar topnotcher and can very well assist his office in terms of legal matters.

Councilors also scheduled an executive session with Yting on May 21 to look into the city’s scholarship program following reports that it is now the scholarship commission that determines the course that government scholars should pursue in college.

“We have received complaints that the city now imposes what courses should be taken by the scholars. We should not intervene in the aspiration of our students,” said councilor Gerardo Carillo.

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