Osmeña realigns his flyover budget in favor of south Cebu road widening in 1st district; Gullas ‘thankful’ to LiberalsBy Ador Vincent Mayol, Doris C. Bongcac
Cebu Daily News
They used to be hostile parties.
A P400 million gift of infrastructure funds has changed that.
Rep. Eduardo Gullas said he was the recipient of generosity of Cebu City South Dist. Rep. Tomas Osmeña, who shifted P400 million worth of projects in favor of the 1st district in southern Cebu for road widening from Carcar to Sibonga town.
“As far as the generous donation of Congressman Osmeña is concerned, I accept it with gratitude,” said Gullas, who announced the unexpected gift at the opening of the Gullas Cup basketball tournament in Naga City yesterday.
The budget was supposed to be for a new flyover across the Mormon temple in barangay Lahug, Cebu City but opposition in the community forced the Department of Public and Highways (DPWH) and Osmeña as sponsor to realign national funds.
Gullas said the south Cebu road widening would cost P1.25 billion and that the P250 million earlier allocated from his pork barrel was not enough.
With Osmeña’s waiver of his own DPWH allocation in favor of the 1st district, Gullas said he just has to source the balance of P375 million.
“I won’t sleep until I can acquire the remaining amount,” he told reporters.
Gullas said road widening in the 1st district has a “regional influence” since vehicles going to south Cebu from Negros and nearby islands have to pass the Carcar to Sibonga section.
That stretch includes a canopy of century-old acacia trees in Naga City to Carcar, where plans to chop them down has angered heritage and environmental advocates.
At least two trees were already cut down, and others marked for removal pending approval of a tree-cutting permit by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Gullas has been discussing with DPWH about ways to preserve the trees but insists that development, especially this legacy project which would be his last as an outgoing congressman, can’t be stopped.
Faced with the fund gap, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson told Gullas the project could continue if another congressman was willing to give up his share of congressional funds.
Gullas said he was surprised when Osmeña offered to waive his P400 million budget (one earmarked for a flyover) for the south road widening project.
“Congressman Osmeña was mad at me when I was still mayor of Talisay. But in 2010, he approached me and asked for advice in seeking a congressional seat. I don’t hold a grudge,” Gullas said.
Gullas said he believes Osmena’s act was a gesture to befriend him. Is an exhange of political favors in the offing?
With 2013 elections ahead, Gullas’ grandson Samsam is running for his congressional seat as the family successor.
Gullas heads the local Alayon party, an ally of the Garcias’ One Cebu administration party in the last 2010 election.
He announced yesterday that Alayon would enter a coalition with the Liberal Party, where Osmeña is the new Cebu City standard bearer (See story on page 2)
“Even if I do not like Congressman Gullas, I like the people in his district who voted for Junjun Davide III in 2010. Giving the money to them is my way of saying thank you to the people there,” Osmeña told Cebu Daily News.
Osmeña said he’d like to see the road widening reach Sibonga town and for part of the P400 million to be spent on a a diversion road so that century-old trees along the national highway don’t have to be cut down.
“I’m sure this will make everybody happy,” he told CDN.
“I have seen what the Cebu South Coastal Road (in the SRP) has done. Grabe ang development sa Talisay area. The expansion of the Naga-Carcar road will bring massive development to the south,” he said.
Osmeña said he was also prepared to find more help for the 1st district, especially if Davide and Bando Osmeña-Pundok Kauswagan (BO-PK) councilor Raul Alcoseba wins in next year’s election.
Davide is running for governor under the Liberal Party while Alcoseba, a three-term Cebu City councilor, is eyeing a seat in the Provincial Board to represent the 1st district.
“If Junjun wins as governor and I am (Cebu) city mayor, I will show them (in the 1st district) what I can do for them and the province,” said Osmeña.
Osmeña emphasized that he did not set any “conditions” for the help given to Gullas.
Both engaged in a bitter feud when the 300-reclamation project in Cebu City neared completion and Gullas, as Talisay City mayor, claimed ownership of at least 50 hectares.
In 2005, the national government issued special patents in favor of the Cebu City government which laid the boundary dispute to rest.
Since then, relations between the two political leaders have been chilly but, according to Osmeña, they remained on “talking terms”.
Three weeks ago, during deliberations of the 2013 national budget hearing in Congress, Osmeña said he heard about Gullas’ request to the DPWH secretary for more funds for the south road project.
Osmeña, vice chair of the congressional appropriations committee, said he offered to to help Gullas and called him a few days after.
Gullas told him he needed “a lot of money” for projects in the 1st district, including the south road expansion and at least six bridges.
Osmeña said he told Gullas that he would give up the P400 million canceled road projects in Cebu City’s south district which were criticized by Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama.
“Gibalibaran man ni Mike Rama so imo na na(Rama rejected it so it’s all yours),” Osmeña told Gullas on the phone.
“I was supposed to return that P400 million appropriation to the national government but I said sige, just realign it for the Carcar-Naga road project,” Osmena told CDN.
“I no longer wanted to get into this war (over projects) with Mike Rama. It was a matter of timing that Eddie Gullas was at the budget hearing so I said I’ll give him the money.”
The P400 million allocation was an “extra”, said Osmeña, as funding secured from the national government on top of his P75 million pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Osmeña said he first allocated the funds for two new flyovers near Modesta Gaisano road across the Mormon temple and near JY Square in Lahug.
But since Mayor Rama opposed the flyovers, Osmeña had the fund shifted to road concreting projects in Cebu City’s south district, which Rama still opposed.
Mayor Rama questioned why DPWH had to rip out roads in good condition for the concreting project when funds could be better applied in dilapidated north district roads like the Reclamation Area or for drainage improvement.
Irked by his comments, Osmeña had the road projects cancelled last month. Then Gullas’ need for additional funding came up.