Labella's first 100 days: No more business permit 'purgatory' in Cebu City


CEBU CITY, Philippines – Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella was mainly focused on clearing waterways and sidewalks during his first 100 days in office but he said he managed to accomplish another maor feat within that period: Ending the business permit "purgatory" in city hall.

Labella reported this in his report on his first 100 days as a first-time mayor on Wednesday, October 16, where he said that the bureaucracy in city hall made waiting for permits like “waiting in limbo.”

"I'm happy to report that this purgatory has ended," Labella said. "Processing certain kinds of permits now only takes 24 hours."

Other permits that need strict regulatory requirements would only take 60 days, the mayor said.

He also said tax amnesty ordinances for businesses who lapsed in payments last year are also in the works to encourage businesses to comply with their dues to the city.

Building permits would take 3 days at most now, due to the digitization of the permit process, Labella said. "More crucially, this streamlined process has shut down the chance for corruption. Soon our city treasury is going to speed up its processes and automated systems."

Aside from improving business permit processes in Cebu City, the mayor said he would focus on holding developers accountable to allocate space for socialized housing, and improve traffic flow in the growing city.

Socalized housing




While Cebu City is the economic center of the Visayas region, this has also created challenges with housing for everyone who comes to the city looking for work.

"Cebu's urban boom, in fact, has generated a human surplus in the form of slums as workers continue to flock to our city, struggling to catch even just a bit of its economic growth and constantly facing displacement," Labella said.

Cebu City, the center of Metro Cebu, has a population of about 920,000. The population of Metro Cebu's 7 cities and 6 municipalities is at about 2.8 million people. 

Cebu City police chief Colonel Gemma Cruz Vinluan had said in September that her most difficult challenge was not the drug campaign, but how to handle demolition of informal settler communities in the city. (READ: Cebu City top cop's biggest challenge? Demolition, not drugs)

On August 7, demolition teams began implementing a court order to take down homes of at least 77 families living in Sitio Avocado in Barangay Lahug, a property being reclaimed by the University of the Philippines, Cebu, for its expansion plans.

To address this issue, Labella said he would hold real estate developers to account in the city by allocating parts of their projects for socalized housing.

"The law mandates that for every condominium that companies build, 5% must go towards housing for the poor," Labella said. "With subdivisions 15% is mandated. As your mayor, I order that this socialized housing component be applied not to any random local government, but solely within Cebu City."


Labella already initiated his government housing project called "Gasa sa Paglaum (Gift of Hope)." Its first project broke ground in Lorega earlier this month.

The project in Lorega has two 15-story midrise buildings to relocate displaced urban poor residents.

The mayor said he was banking on the cooperation of real estate developers to make his housing program sustainable.

The next projects, he said, would rise in Barangay Mambaling and Ermita.

"We simply must stop being comfortable with the misery of others," Labella said.

Traffic

In relation to the worsening traffic situation, Labella said that that as a short-term measure, he would order traffic enforcers to issue citations for traffic violators and impose mandatory "reeducation."

He asked enforcers to go after "stubborn" jeepney drivers who load and unload passengers illegally and to remove "not roadworthy" vehicles  from the streets.

In the long term, Labella said infrastructure projects, including an intermodal public transportation system, are in the works

The intermodal system refers to a Bus Rapid Transit system, stops that feed  jeepney passengers to the BRT stations, and a monorail transit system connecting Cebu City with other towns and cities in Metro Cebu.

Labella said he was also open to joining the Mega Cebu Development Authority, which would integrate transportation, traffic, and infrastructure planning of the cities and municipalities within Metro Cebu.


Flooding, road clearing



Labella focused much of his attention on road clearing and cleaning waterways during his first 3 months in office. The road clearing was prioritized to comply with a Department of Interior and Local Government to clear roads of obstructions, while waterways are often causes of flooding on Cebu City’s roads. (READ: DILG tells Labella to maintain cleared sidewalks in Cebu City)



Clearing the roads involved displacing sidewalk vendors who have been selling on busy downtown Cebu City streets for decades.

 Cebu City passed the assessment by the DILG on road clearing on October 4.

Part of making sure displaced vendors could continue earning a living, Labella said, would be to move them into "modern" public markets.

The Carbon Market was reorganized to give more space to pedestrians, Labella said. "Past visits might have discouraged many of you because of its impassibility, its blocked transport channels. The change is found there now, especially along Quezon and Pasil Bouelvards," he said.

He mentioned that the city government may allow displaced vendors to return to the sidewalks and would commission world-renowned Cebuano designer Kenneth Cobonpue to help design stalls that would minimize obstructing the sidewalks.


Other priorities mentioned include job creation at the South Road Properties recreation area, improving childhood nutrition programs, and building a Cebu City College to address the need for those seeking work in various trades. – Rappler.com

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.

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