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Organic insights for Tabunok

/ 07:26 AM October 14, 2013

Talisay City Mayor Johnny V. de los Reyes, a.k.a. JVR, marked his first 100 days in office by coming up with a list of achievements. Critics noted nothing spectacular except that he likened the city to a run-down house with nothing in it. The suggestion was not hard to miss. The mayor was saying the previous administration neglected the city and its constituents.

The mayor’s speech immediately drew criticism from members of the local opposition because they feel JVR’s claims smacked of arrogance. Morag siya ray makamao (As if he’s the only one capable of doing good), one partisan angrily said.

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The victory of De los Reyes in the May 2013 elections was a big story in Cebu politics because he was a perennial loser in past local elections. Talisay is the principal city of the first district, considered the fiefdom of former congressman Eduardo Gullas, leader of the local Alayon Party.

In May 2013, Eddiegul’s prospects looked bright because the Liberal Party lacked organization in the local level. Moreover, the party was not able to attract major politicians. In the end, the party of President Benigno Aquino III fielded the veteran but “unwinnable” Johnny V. de los Reyes to run against the political kingpin.

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But there was popular rage against the transfer of the central market from barangay Tabunok to nearby Lagtang, a move which was decided during the term of former Talisay City Mayor Socrates Fernandez. Eddiegul authored the transfer of the public market; this was seen in the facility’s original signage which bore the name of the former lawmaker and ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who helped fund the construction of the market.

As we know all know, JVR achieved the impossible, defeat the Alayon leader in his home court on the strength of the sentiments of Tabunoknons who supported the restoration of the old market.

So how is Talisay City and barangay Tabunok 100 days or so after the May 2013 elections?

According to JVR, he “brought government closer to the people” by setting up a pharmacy for indigent sectors, buying three ambulances to serve poor patients, going on weekly outreaches to 22 barangays and fixing the city’s drainage systems. He also highlighted strides in peace and order through the acquisition of new police patrol cars.

The administration also announced the success of the “Adopt a Talisaynon” employment program, improved operations in the city abattoir which netted additional income for the city.

As an afterthought, the mayor mentioned that he has restored the public market in Tabunok, a companion move to his decision to reopen the tricycle terminal in the foreground of the market facility. He did not say what will happen to the market in Lagtang, where trading has substantially fallen because business has returned to Tabunok. Meanwhile, the city needs to mobilize hordes of traffic enforcers daily in order to man traffic, discipline tricycle drivers and vendors. The situation puts more pressure on the finances of the local government unit.

As to building a new building to accommodate vendors doing business around the old market, JVR did not give details except to say that he is talking with a private businessman who is reportedly interested to set up a facility on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) arrangement.

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JVR and his administration can be faulted for some missteps, but I don’t think he can be criticized for not doing his best under the present situation.

Tax shortfalls, budget deficit and a ballooning payroll for casual workers are just few of governance problems inherited from the previous administration. On top of that, the mayor has to deal with an intractable council and partisans who bring him intrigues every day. The problems plague the new administration and this may be the reason his group has run out of fresh ideas especially on the issue of the Tabunok public market.

I’m familiar with the noise and chaos in Tabunok because I live in nearby Lagtang. The “organic” insights gained from passing by this area for five years now tell me the city is ill-advised to restore the old market because a central facility for vending and buying attracts tens of thousands of people 24/7.

The market is close to the flyover, where vehicles pass by non-stop. Below it, the flow of human and vehicular traffic is also endless. Why build a facility in an area which is already constricted by the sheer daily volume of human and vehicular traffic? Restoring the central market in Tabunok will attract more human traffic, choke vehicular movement to the south and turn off investors. In short, building a central market facility will render the city in perpetual barrio-hood in a manner of speaking.

I am no urban planner but one solution to the problem is to build satellite markets in densely-populated barangays like Cansojong, San Isidro, Tangke, San Roque and Lawaan. This will not only encourage vendors and sellers to go to the market nearest them but also disperse tricycle and habal-habal drivers. This will unclog human and vehicular traffic in Tabunok, make the market clean and more manageable and, hopefully, make the area attractive to investors.

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