By: Eileen G. Mangubat, Victor Anthony V. Silva May 18,2015 - 01:16 AM
Emilio 'Lito' Osmena, 76, at his mountaintop residence in barangay Busay, Cebu City, enjoys cool weather even at high noon in summer. (CDN PHOTO/ TONEE DESPOJO)

Emilio ‘Lito’ Osmena, 76, at his mountaintop residence in barangay Busay, Cebu City, enjoys cool weather even at high noon in summer. (CDN PHOTO/ TONEE DESPOJO)

The view outside his window in a hilltop of Busay sweeps across Metro Cebu – harbors, both Mactan bridges, reclamation areas, rising commercial towers and dense urban settlements.

“Whenever I see this, it makes me so proud that this is what Cebuanos have achieved,” said former Cebu governor Emilio Osmeña yesterday.

At 76, walking with the aid of a cane, he’s earned the right to sit back in political retirement and bask in a legacy of having led the province during its “Ceboom” years in the 1990s when Cebu’s economic growth was outpacing the country’s.

But the scenery from his low-rise residence, where the climate is a cool 16 degrees even at the height of an El Niño summer, bothers Osmeña as well.

He said the growth is “choking Cebu” because of “lack of leadership and vision”. He said it shows in worsening traffic, lack of road networks, unplanned construction, inadequate water distribution and his pet peeve – “waiting for Imperial Manila” to decide when Cebu would get assistance, infrastructure projects or political direction.

Osmeña told Cebu Daily News he is serious about running again for Cebu governor in 2016 out of frustration over unfinished programs he thought others would carry out.

This is the reason, he said, he transferred his voter’s registration to Balamban town, where he owns property, shortly before the deadline on May 2. And he’s warming up allies of his Promdi party.

“I have not seen even a fraction of my vision (carried out) from all those who succeeded me, more importantly, those who I helped in the succession,” he told Cebu Daily News.

He referred to his “four pillars of progress” when he served as governor from 1998 to 1992 – roads, water, power and communication.
One example of his unfulfilled vision, he said, is a “non-stop” national highway from the northernmost tip of Cebu to the south – Maya, Daanbantayan town to Santander town – to cut travel time.

“This is so simple and doable it hurts me to think no one has thought of really doing it,” he lamented.

He said there were strategies to tap investors so they would be “scrambling” to be part of the project.

“Billions of pesos in the bank are worth nothing if it’s not getting money to move from one hand to another in economic activity.”

“I don’t want to attack (Gov. Junjun) Davide. He’s buotan (good) and honest,” said Osmeña, who freely mentions contributing P1.5 million to fund the Liberal Party’s headquarters in Cebu in 2013. “Let’s discuss issues.”

The “Ceboom” era identified with Osmeña was a period when bold decisions were made: the sale of province-owned land that is now the Ayala-led Cebu Business Park and I.T. Park, the opening of the Trans-central Highway to Balamban, fast recovery after 1990’s supertyphoon Ruping, charters to ensure the Mactan airport and port authority remain Cebu-led enterprises, and a bond flotation that raised P1 billion for Cebu province.


The Cebu governorship next year could be heading for a four-way race.

Davide last month declared his intention to seek reelection in 2016 under the Liberal Party.

Osmeña said he was prepared for Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia of y One Cebu to make a comeback and run again for governor as an ally of Vice President Jejomar Binay.

He said the Liberal Party in Cebu is wrestling with a likely scenario of the Duranos fielding their own candidate of Cebu governor.

Osmeña last Friday invited Rep. Benhur Salimbangon, an ally of Gwen Garcia’s One Cebu, to be his running mate.

But the 4th district congressman, whom Lito said “spoke intensely” in favor of the plan when Lito sought out Salimbangon at the legislator’s residence in Medellin a few days ago, back-pedalled when he told journalists later that he would just seek re-election to finish his third and last term in Congress.

Asked about the refusal of his offer yesterday, Osmeña said the situation was still fluid and that Salimbangon remains his choice for vice governor.

“We don’t really know what lies for us in the future. My advantage is that I’m not dependent on Imperial Manila. The others all have no candidates yet because wa pa man na-dictar ang Manila.” (Manila has not yet dictated to them.)

Osmeña’s defiant attitude partly stems from his own financial independence.

He was a multi-millionaire who made his fortune in real estate development before he entered politics in 1988.

He said the Garcias (Pablo and Gwen) and Davide can’t deny that he had helped them secure their campaigns in the past.

After Osmeña’s term ended in 1992, he served as chief economic adviser of President Fidel V. Ramos. The next elected governors were Vicente de la Serna (one term) Pablo Garcia (3 terms) , Gwen Garcia (3 terms) and Davide, now on his second year.

Osmeña said he never stopped “preaching” how to keep up the momentum of Cebu’s economic progress without relying on “Imperial Manila”.

“It can be done again,” he said.

“The most important reason I’m running is that I want to promote a federal system for the long run. And I don’t want to frustrate this phenomenal achievement of my brother Cebuanos. Nindot unta ang Cebu.”

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TAGS: Ceboom, Cebu, development, election, governor, gubernatorial race, politics

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