THE DUMAGUETE City government has started community-level public consultations on the 174-hectare “Smart City” reclamation project, which is facing strong resistance from various sectors.
The 30 barangay chairpersons have been called upon to hold discussions in their respective communities “to facilitate the dissemination of facts and address the concerns of the people so they will be able to make an informed decision on the matter,” the city government said in a statement.
Mayor Felipe Antonio B. Remollo also held a meeting with the Sangguniang Kabataan or youth council leaders in the communities over the weekend.
“All the concerns raised by the participants on behalf of their constituencies, including in the previous consultations, will be submitted to the national agencies that will review and ultimately approve or disapprove the proposed Smart City Project,” the local government said.
Mr. Remollo gave assurance that he will “not allow the project to proceed if all legal requirements are not complied with and if it puts the best interests of the people of Dumaguete City and the environment in jeopardy.”
Various local and national groups, including fisherfolks, environment organizations, and Siliman University based in the city, have expressed opposition to the project.
The city government, on the other hand, has said that the project will boost economic growth.
It said a separate series of public consultations will be held once all the technical and documentary preparations are completed.
City Legal Officer Manuel R. Arbon, in a speech before the local council last week, also gave assurance that no agreement nor contract has been signed with the contractor.
“For now, our city mayor, Mayor Ipe Remollo and our city government have not executed and signed any MOA (memorandum of agreement), any JVA (joint venture agreement), any PPP (public-private partnership) contract with EM Cuerpo,” Mr. Arbon said.
He also appealed for calm, saying that the atmosphere in the city that promotes itself as the “City of Gentle People” has become “toxic,” especially with unrestrained discussions over social media.
Local officials have been accused of corruption for supporting the project.
“False assumptions. Fallacious conclusions, but lacking in facts… That’s not really fair, not healthy,” he said in a mix of English and the local dialect.
“And I’m sure this is not what we also want. If we want to oppose — fine, but let’s drop the name calling or insinuations of corruption or graft,” he said, noting that all concerns and positions on the project will be taken up “in due time, in a proper forum.” — MSJ