‘Builders’ vs ‘destroyers’? Cebu City’s Osmeña, Labella trade barbs

Micole Gerard Tizon
‘Builders’ vs ‘destroyers’? Cebu City’s Osmeña, Labella trade barbs
Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña and Vice Mayor Edgar Labella remain at odds over the Isla dela Victoria project

CEBU, Philippines – The son of Cebu City Mayor Tomas “Tommy” Osmeña called the opposition camp in the city “destroyers,” compared to members of the administration who are “builders.”

While criticizing the opposition for “blocking” a project on the city’s reclaimed South Road Properties (SRP) land, Miguel Osmeña told supporters of the Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) party what his father once told him.

“Akong papa (My father), he likes to say, ‘In politics there are two kinds of people – there are builders and there are destroyers.’ Kami diri sa pamilyang BOPK (We here in the BOPK family), you will see builders,” said the younger Osmeña during BOPK’s proclamation rally on Saturday, March 30.

Miguel narrated that when businessman John Gokongwei approached his father a few years ago to buy a piece of SRP land for the Isla dela Victoria project, Mayor Osmeña declined, saying the money was only “one time, big time.”

The mayor proposed that instead of purchasing the lot, Gokongwei must give 10% of Isla dela Victoria earnings to the city government every month for the next 50 years.

Isla dela Victoria is an integrated development which will include hotels as well as a shopping and entertainment complex. It is the largest investment in the city worth P18 billion, and is expected to generate 5,000 jobs.

However, the project did not go smoothly in the city council in August 2018. Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgar Labella – who is running for mayor against Osmeña in the 2019 polls – “walked out” along with other opposition councilors, said Miguel Osmeña.

BOPK. Cebu City Mayor Tommy Osmeña and the rest of Bando Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan at their proclamation rally on March 30, 2019. Photo by Micole Gerard Tizon/Rappler

But Labella clarified they did not walk out, saying that the session was already adjourned. When they left, he said, the council proceeded with the session and the project was approved.

He also said in a Facebook post that he is not against the project per se. “I am against a deal that is grossly disadvantageous to Cebu City even if it is grossly advantageous to some people.”

Labella argued that the city “will only receive the 2-10% profit share after the 9th year, despite investing at least P10 billion worth of land.”

Mayor Osmeña countered on Facebook that “the 9-year grace period begins as soon as the contracts are signed” and “is meant to encourage the developer to build quickly, because the sooner he finishes, the better it is for him.”

The mayor added that the P18-billion figure is the amount that is going to be spent by the developer. He added that it does not include the land.

“Cebu City is putting zero cash into this project. Stop lying to the Cebuanos,” he said in his online post.

Osmeña also said Cebu City will have no part in the operation of the project, aside from owning the 9-hectare land that it is going to be built on. “I can still build faster than you can destroy. Imagine what I can build without you.” – Rappler.com

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