Cebu City promised Margielyn Didal a skatepark. It’s nowhere to be found.

Days after skateboarder Margielyn Didal’s appearance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, many in the skateboarding community of her home city of Cebu are asking: Where’s the skatepark we were promised?

Before entering the big leagues, Didal was much like any other skateboarder in Cebu City – looking for a place to practice, or just enjoy, street skateboarding, and running away when the authorities caught them utilizing the space not meant for their sport.

“Before, skateboarding [was] illegal in the Philippines. When you [were] carrying a skateboard and you [tried] to skate on the streets, the police [would] apprehend you,” she said in a 2018 Rappler interview.

Ever since becoming the first Filipina to raise the flag in skateboarding competitions abroad, Didal has not ceased calling for support for athletes like her in the skateboarding community, and for more skateparks to be built in the Philippines.

After Didal bagged a gold medal at the 2018 ASEAN Games, local officials in Cebu City promised to build a skatepark.

Victoria Osmeña, sister of then-Cebu City mayor Tomas Osmeña, pledged to donate P5 million so the project could begin, eyeing for it to be built at the South Road Properties (SRP).

Issues with regards to the appropriate location for the skatepark and pending building permits delayed the construction of the proposed skatepark, and Tomas lost his reelection bid in 2019.

Today, Victoria’s P5 million donation has yet to be turned over to the city treasurer’s office and, consequently, the skatepark has yet to be built. Despite this, City Councilor Joel Garganera and other officials have vowed to make good on the city government’s promise.

“There’s a lot of local talent here that, if just provided a proper place to skate, they can be the next Margielyn Didal or even better,” said skateboarding enthusiast Cliff Rigor.

Cebu City’s skateboarding community is still waiting after three years. Here is a timeline of what happened.

June 2018

After Didal wins her first ASEAN Games gold medal, Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña announces that the city will build a skatepark as a tribute to her victory.

The mayor says the city will start the immediate construction of the skatepark, and that he has a P5 million donation from his sister, Victoria Osmeña, to start the project.

The said skate park will feature a skating rink complete with a street course, a flat course for beginners, a half-pipe, a bowl, a pump track, and a mini-grandstand. 

In a series of sessions, the city council proposes that the site for the skatepark be at the 26-hectare lot owned by the Cebu City government near the South Road Properties (SRP) entrance in Barangay Mambaling.

September 2018

On Tuesday, September 4, City Councilor Eugenio Gabuya Jr. moves to defer the approval of the proposed deed of donation that will be signed by Mayor Osmeña and sister Victoria due to controversies surrounding the 26-hectare lot.

The city council finds that the 26-hectare lot was apparently bought by the consortium of Ayala Land, Cebu Holdings Inc., and SM Prime Holdings in 2015, under a different administration.

The stand of Osmeña’s administration is that the sale of the lot during the administration of former city mayor Michael Rama was “illegal.” 

Still, in a regular session on September 11, the city council passes a resolution authorizing Mayor Osmeña to enter into and sign on behalf of the city the deed of donation and acceptance with Victoria.

The city council decides not to specify a location in the resolution and in the deed of donation and acceptance until a suitable site for the skatepark is found.

October 2018

The city council announces that the new location of the skatepark is the 4,000-square-meter city-owned lot located behind Fort San Pedro in Barangay San Roque.

Councilor Gabuya says the groundbreaking will be held in either November or December, adding that they are looking for additional funds to complete the skatepark either from the city government or skateboarding organizations.

November 2018

Mayor Osmeña is finally authorized to enter into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with his sister, Victoria, for the establishment of the skatepark.

The terms and conditions of the MOA say that Victoria will be responsible for the initial construction of the skatepark and will turn over the facility to the city government once it is completed.

The city council budgets the project at P12 million, with Victoria’s P5 million as the seed fund.

December 2018

Mayor Osmeña leads the groundbreaking of the Cebu City Skate Park in the city-owned lot located behind Fort San Pedro in the morning of December 4.

Osmeña is joined by Victoria and Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo during the groundbreaking ceremony.

City officials say Phase 1 of the project is expected to begin a few months after the groundbreaking ceremony.

February 2019

In a Philstar article, Gabuya says that the construction of the skatepark has lagged due to the processing of multiple permits.

The city council, engineers, and architects review the design and construction demands for the skatepark, and estimate that the cost can run up to P18 million.

May 2019

Phase 1 of the construction has not started and is now covered by the election ban – the nationwide prohibition on the implementation of government-funded construction projects.

Gabuya announces that the city council has opted to postpone the project until after the elections. 

Osmeña loses his reelection bid.

July 2019

Newly-elected City Councilor Donaldo Hontiveros announces that he will “take the challenge” to complete the construction of the skatepark.

Hontiveros, who is now the city council’s sports and games committee chairman, says he will source funds for the project from outside since the city government is still missing a considerable amount for the project’s completion.

October 2019

In a letter addressed to the city council, the National Skateboarders Association asks for updates on the project.

After requesting a certificate of receipt from the city treasurer, city attorney Rey Gealon announces that there is no record of Victoria’s P5 million donation to the city for the project.

Gealon says the city will still allocate funds for the skatepark, on the condition that the P5 million will be turned over to the city as soon as possible.

May 2021

In a privilege speech now posted on his official Facebook page in May, Councilor Joel Garganera urges the city council to construct the skatepark in a 10-hectare lot in SRP.

“I have already passed a resolution urging the Office of the Mayor in coordination with the SRP Management Office to allocate 10 hectares of the SRP as an open space last May 7,” he says.

The city councilor emphasizes that there is enough space in SRP to accommodate this open area. 

“In fact, aside from free spaces, we also have properties subjected to a joint venture agreement (JVA) which remains unused even after a decade from the time the JVA was entered upon by this city – particularly the fact that the construction is still roughly at Phase 2,” says Garganera.

“For the 40 hectares covered by the said JVA, only 20 hectares of which was developed, with the city receiving a meager amount of less than P2 billion for a prime property. This is notwithstanding the appraised value of the land,” he adds.

July 2021

In a phone interview on July 1, Osmeña tells Rappler that they are only “withholding” the P5 million donation due to complications he has found with the city’s plans.

Osmeña says the city government has set forth plans to build the skateboard park in an isolated area in Barangay Pasil if the 10-hectare proposal by Councilor Garganera does not push through, and that it may not even be finished by the time they shell out the donation.

“We will consider giving the donation to finish the skatepark but we cannot just give P5 million if they might not even finish the project,” he says.

“It doesn’t even have to be in a 10-hectare lot. Why does it have to be in a 10-hectare place if it can just be in the Plaza Independencia,” Osmeña adds.

In a follow-up interview with Rappler on July 28, Garganera says they are looking beyond the promised P5 million donation from Osmeña and looking for other means to fund the project.

“I don't see that as a problem once we have the area. We can settle appropriations once we identify the area. We have the funds for that,” he says.

As of this writing, the city council has yet to identify an updated amount for the construction of the skatepark while they are looking for alternative locations.

Didal, Rigor, and Cebu City’s skateboarding community may have to wait a bit longer for a place they can call their own. – Rappler.com