BY GLENDA SOLOGASTOA
ILOILO City – Atty. Gualberto Cataluña has denied that the city government is behind his group’s campaign supporting the Central Business District (CBD) Revitalization Project.
They are an independent group, he stressed.
Cataluña, fellow lawyers Ideljulio Romeo and Christopher Espera came out with a petition supporting the central market rehabilitation.
They claimed to represent central market vendors, too, and other sectors such as trisikad and tricycle drivers, and consumers, most especially the market patrons.
“Ining mga tawo nga ini may tingog man nga dapat pamatian (These people in favor of the project must also be heard),” Cataluña stressed.
Central market vendors opposed to the CBD project doubt the real intention of Cataluña’s group. Their leader, Rex Donasco, said the group’s petition is merely mouthing what is being peddled by the city government about the project.
“This is not a city government move. Wala diri labot ang city government,” insisted Cataluña over DyOK Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo.
He said the CBD project will benefit the public.
His group does not believe that the project is privatization, a position also being held by Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog.
The city mayor had said the city government will retain ownership of the central market even if a private entity will be allowed to manage it.
“(The central market) will not be under the control and supervision of SM but still under the city government. There is no such thing as privatization of the central market,” Cataluña said.
SM Prime Holdings, Inc. has been identified as the sole bidder for the project.
Donasco and his group are against the plan. They fear being displaced or that the stall rentals would skyrocket beyond their capacity to pay.
Cataluña clarified that they are not against Donasco’s group. He said they also want what is good for the vendors and the public.
Cataluña said they are also against the displacement of central market vendors.
His group surfaced a day after Negrense congressman Neri Colmenares vowed to lead a congressional inquiry on the alleged anomalies at the central market and on the plan to transfer the market’s management to a private entity.
He told Panay News he will convince the House leadership to hold the investigation in Iloilo City during the break.
Congress will resume its session on July 28 yet.
Colmenares, representative of Bayan Muna party-list, will file a resolution calling for the congressional probe this week.
During a meeting with central market vendors last week, Colmenares was told that up to five public markets in Iloilo City will be “privatized” allegedly to “increase the local government’s income.”
“The government should not relinquish its job to the private sector,” he stressed, adding that privatizing public markets will lead to increases in prices of basic goods and cripple small businesses./PN