City Council: Where are the contracts? Why did SRP manager collect P200,000 from operator of rides?
For the holiday season, the Cebu city government opens today its third annual “Kasadya sa SRP”, a fair ground with carnival rides, a bazaar, food stalls and a nightly variety show at the south reclamation area.
Entrance is free. Visitors only pay for rides and vended food.
And this is the only place firecrackers can be legally sold.
But the amusement park, which opens at 6 p.m. till midnight, has unresolved issues of how revenues are collected by city managers and transparency in the collection.
One trader who complained about paying P200,000 as a “registration fee” in last year’s fair suddenly withdrew his complaint of extortion against SRP manager Roberto “Bu” Varquez.
Leonardo Noel Jr., in a letter to the City Council this week, said the money was already returned to his employer, a carnival operator, “since it is not a requirement for the Kasadya sa SRP”.
Noel and Varquez were both invited to an executive session of the council last Wednesday to shed light on the complaint, but both didn’t show up.
Noel said he was “busy” attending to paperwork to join this year’s SRP carnival while Varquez said his attendance was no longer needed since the complaint was withdrawn.
Not satisfied with the brushoff, the City Council set another executive meeting next week to invite the two parties.
“Where did the money go? Why was it returned after one year?” said Councilor James Cuenco after the letter was read aloud.
Councilor Margot Osmeña is asking who signed the contracts with operators and vendors since none have passed through the council.
“We have to ask for an explanation. In the letter complaint, it is very clear that Noel is accusing Bu Varquez of extortion and now he is changing his mind?” said Councilor Eugenio Gabuya Jr.
At 4 p.m. today, a Mass and program will kick off the annual fair which runs from Dec. 6 to Feb. 24 next year.
The amusement park will continue through the Sinulog festival in January.
The carnival rides and festive atmosphere attract students, families and other revelers to the SRP, where free bus rides are offered to and from the site.
After supertyphoon “Yolanda” and the earthquake last October, the ‘Kasadya sa SRP’ offers the public a chance to feel the Christmas spirit in a “family-friendly” setting, said city market administrator Raquel Arce in a press conference yesterday.
“This is one of the ways for us to move on, forget our troubles and divert our attention from the tragedies that happened. This is for all of us to feel the spirit of Christmas,” she said.
She said this dovetails with the city’s program “Carbon Pasko Na” where 9-day dawn masses are held in the middle of Carbon market, which Mayor Michael Rama attends every year.
Under a city ordinance, the SRP is the only site designated for the legitimate sale of firecrackers and pyrotechnics. Stalls will be set up from December 15 to 31, the fourth year the city government is managing it.
“This is were we put the legitimate firecracker vendors. Our Task Force Pabuto will be going after those who sell anywhere else in the city and confiscate illegal firecrackers,” said Arce.
Souvenirs and dry goods will be sold at affordable prices for Christmas shoppers she said.
“If you are looking for cheap buys, the ‘Kasadya sa SRP’ is the place to go,” said Arce.
She said the city government earns from daily market fees or “arkabala” paid by vendors and special permits issued by the treasurer’s office.
Firecrackers vendors are also required to secure permit from the police.
Food vendors pay P25 a day while dry goods and firecrackers vendors pay P20.
No stall rentals are charged, she said.
Instead vendors pay seed money of P6,000 to P9,000 to their association to take care of nightly operation expenses.
This includes the cost of electricity, meals of entertainers, local talents from the different barangays, and fielding three city Kaohsiung buses to ferry people for free from three access points to the Sugbu building grounds in SRP: Senior Citizen’s Park behind City Hall, the Mambaling access road of the SRP and in Laray, Talisay.
Asked if activities of vendors and carnival ride operators are covered by a contract, Arce said no contract was needed since the ‘Kasadya sa SRP’ was operated as a “private-public partnership.”
“We started with firecracker vending because of the passage of an ordinance designating the SRP as the vending site. Vendors later thought of adding more activities in the area to attract people to come,” she said.
Asked if a day will be set aside to treat typhoon Yolanda evacuees who are housed in Cebu City, Arce said that was a “good idea” they would definitely adopt.
She said the city will coordinate with the social welfare office and barangay captains to bring them to enjoy the fair.
“They are the ones who need this the most,” Arce said. A nightly variety show will feature talents from different barangays can be enjoyed for free.
Ten stalls will sell varied wares like the downtown night market in Colon Street and 30 food stalls. In a separate interview, Varquez said he was absent because city administrator Jose Marie Poblete told him there was no more need for his presence since Noel already withdrew the complaint against him. /with CORRESPONDENT Jose Santino S. Bunachita
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