CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Rolando Uy announced an ambitious plan to build a new government center in the city, citing the growing traffic congestion as the main reason for the move.
The announcement has sparked discussions among local officials and residents, with some praising it as a necessary solution to the city’s traffic problem, while others have welcomed it with reservations.
But one councilor has pointed out that the city government should first focus on addressing other pressing issues, such as improving infrastructure and providing better services to residents.
Concerns have also been raised about the cost of the project, and the potential loss of the historical site.
The mayor’s plan would cost at least P3 billion, Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Oro Chamber) president Ray Talimio estimated.
The city hall’s present Executive Building, which was the seat of government of the then-municipio Cagayan de Misamis, stands on the exact same site where local officials received dignitaries on separate occasions in the 1900s, among them then-American chief civil administrators in the Philippines William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt Jr.
Cagayan de Oro councilors have called on Uy’s administration to present a detailed plan.
Councilor George Goking, the chairman of the city council’s ways and means committee, supports the idea of relocating the city hall but wants public consultations first.
The new seat of government could be built on an 18-hectare property in Carmen, the city’s most populous barangay, Goking said.
The property, which used to be Cagayan de Oro’s sanitary landfill, was developed into an eco-park by the local government during the administration of Uy’s predecessor, Oscar Moreno.
Councilor Edgar Cabanlas, who proposed the relocation before the city council, said the idea is to bring together local and national government offices in the city into one compound.
The proposal, he said, would also help to ease the traffic congestion in downtown Cagayan de Oro, and partially address the issue of inadequate parking spaces.
“I take the taxi whenever I go to city hall because the parking spaces there are always taken,” Cabanlas told local broadcaster Magnum Radyo on Tuesday, January 24.
Cagayan de Oro, like many highly urbanized cities in the country, faces serious traffic issues stemming from rapid population growth, limited infrastructure, and urbanization.
The proposal was met with a positive response from Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, who committed to work for an initial fund of P500 million from the national government on the condition that the local government provides a suitable relocation area, according to Uy.
Councilor James Judith, however, expressed apprehensions, saying that there were more pressing concerns to be addressed first before undertaking a multibillion-peso project, such as improving basic services and the local government-run hospital.
“Why not prioritize spending money toward improving the city hospital? What good is a big-ticket project if we haven’t addressed basic services such as public health first?” he said.
Judith also pointed out that such an undertaking would take a long time to complete.
“If the city can raise funds, why not spend it on the city hospital instead? We are a billionaire city, yet our hospital is not even secondary level yet. We can’t always be referring patients to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center,” he said.
Councilor John Michael Seno said the present city hall should be preserved given its historical value and that selling it should be out of the question.
Another councilor, Jay Roa Pascual, proposed that the local government develop a compound and lease spaces to national government offices and even commercial establishments to generate more revenues. – Rappler.com