Carbon Alliance files TRO against Carbon Market Modernization project

By: Dyrecka Letigio - CDN Digital | August 25,2021 - 06:51 PM

Artist Impression of a redeveloped Carbon Public Market | Photo courtesy of Megawide Construction Corporation

CEBU CITY, Philippines — A multi-sectoral group seeks to make null and void the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) between the Cebu City government and the construction giant, Megawide Construction Corp., over the Carbon Market modernization program.

The petition to nullify the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) was filed on Wednesday, August 25, 2021, by the Carbonhanong Alyansa Alang Sa Reporma Ug Bahandianong Ogma Sa Mga Nanginabuhi (CARBON), Movement Against Carbon Market Privatization (MACMP), SANLAKAS party-list organization, AKBAYAN party-list organization, QUEBVABEI vendors association, and Bato Ermita Community and Neighborhood Association Inc. (BECANAI), Wangyu Mambaling Homeowners’ Association, Ermita Fisher Folks Association, Suba Women’s Organization, Cebu Urban Poor Women’s League, Panaghugpong sa mga Kabus nga Tagadakbayan, Pasil Women’s Organization, Proper Ermita Homeowners’ Association, and several taxpayers and consumers and individual stall owners.

The group filed the charges in a Cebu City court, praying for a temporary restraining order for the project as well, a writ for a preliminary injunction, and a writ of mandamus.

According to the complainants, Megawide and Cebu City officials committed grave abuse of discretion and malice in the execution of the JVA.  Thus, Megawide should be barred from recouping its initial investments on the project.

The groups argued that the Cebu City government had no right to include certain lots in the JVA considering that the ownership of these are under the national government, even if the city government was given administrative rights over it.

About 90 percent of the project site involves prime real properties not owned by Cebu City, thus, beyond the latter’s dominion and authority to invest in a long-term contract,” said the group. 

Lawyer Edmun Lao said that that Blocks 3 and 4 are owned by the national government with a proclamation order that Cebu City administrates the properties. The city government has no power of dominion over the properties.

Block 6 is a national government property with the administration given to the Cebu City Port Authority (CPA), and a portion of the area, Sitio Bato, has been declared an Urban Land Reform Zone in the time of President Ferdinand Marcos.

The city government also passed an ordinance that would declare Sitio Bato as a slum improvement and resettlement area.

Aside from the issue of ownership and dominion, Lao, also pointed out that the process of the JVA is questionable as only 10 days were given for counterproposals to be filed, echoing the previous complaint of CFI Cebu Cooperative, which wanted to counter Megawide’s proposal.

There is no notification to and clearance from the Philippine Competition Commission. The 50-year term is excessive and unprecedented. Defendants failed to enact an ordinance to approve and authorize the JVA and the component projects and activities,” said Lao. 

The complainants added that the JVA is actually a Build Operate and Transfer contract.  However, it will remain illegal, invalid, null, and void under the said framework for lack of a new concept or technology and there being guarantees provided.

“We all agree that Carbon needs improvement in its facilities and management.  But Megawide’s vision of transforming Carbon into a ‘first world’ mall and predominantly serve as a tourist attraction goes against the grain of the informality of Carbon and its significant role of providing employment for the informal sector.”

“The formalization of Carbon through a profit-oriented privatization of its operations will dispossess many vendors and other supporting workers of their livelihoods, and will have lasting impacts on the overall cost of living in the city,” said Dr. Ramon C. Sevilla, Urban and Regional Planner.

Curative measures

Vice Mayor Michael Rama has long questioned the JVA of the Carbon Market modernization program ever since the CPA has written to him during his time as acting mayor that a portion of the project will affect their property.

Rama said that he believes there is no need to file charges, but he insists that steps must be taken to correct the issues on ownerships of the lots.

“I am not against the project. Di ko gusto mo rescind sa kontrata pero ako gyod tutukan ang curative measures, include among others apil ang DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources). Akong gitawagan si (Environment) Secretary Roy Cimatu kay naay properties didto nga adminitratively sa DENR,” said Rama.

He said that the portions of the lots that are not under the dominion of the city government must not be included in the JVA.

Still, Rama said the City Council will tackle this issues in hopes to resolve it before the main construction of the new market will begin.

‘Megawide complied with applicable laws’

City Administrator Floro Casas, Jr., who heads the joint venture selection committee, said the JVA went through the proper process.

“Ila man na katungod mofile unsa case ila gusto ifile. But whether their case is meritorious or not is another matter. The JVSC evaluated the carbon development project thoroughly and objectively, taking into consideration the best interest of the city government, the vendors and the public in general,” he said in a text message.

Megawide said it has yet to receive a copy of the complaint and will address the issues in the proper venue.

“However, rest assured that Megawide will respond to the said petition in due course and in the appropriate venues. Nonetheless, we would like to reiterate that Megawide has complied with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations in relation to the Project,” they said in a statement.

The corporation also stood their ground that they followed the proper process of the JVA, conducted the necessary public hearings, and worked with the locals in formulating the plan for a modern Carbon Market.

They emphasized that there will be no displacement of registered vendors from the public market and they will continue to follow the directives of Cebu City with respect to vendor space and welfare.

“In this regard, it has already been announced that the rent in the public market will remain at the current P8.50 per sq.m. per day for the next three (3) years, while the arkabala system for ambulant vendors shall be followed,” they added.

/bmjo

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TAGS: Carbon Market, Carbonhanong Alyansa Alang Sa Reporma Ug Bahandianong Ogma Sa Mga Nanginabuhi, CFI Cebu Cooperative, joint venture agreement, Megawide Construction Corp, Movement Against Carbon Market Privatization

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