ORMOC CITY – The Ormoc Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. held a forum this week involving stakeholders at the Ormoc City Plaza area, with the intention of asking the City Government to involve affected sectors in whatever plans it has for the public grounds in the future.
More importantly, the chamber wants to know how the improved plaza would be managed onwards, because fears have been raised that after plunking millions on it, future administrations may just revert it to rent out to baratillos as it was in the past.
Inigo Larrazabal, chamber president, said that the plaza is the “face” of Ormoc City and for the longest time, it has been neglected. Two months before the elections, however, there has been a buzz of activity in the area because of an ongoing P 8.9-million landscaping and renovation of a third of the open space fronting the sea. Sadly, he noted, residents were not consulted.
Larrazabal, however, made it clear that the forum was organized “not to criticize” but to manifest to city officials the interest of the private sector to be “made part of the conversation” or decision-making process for projects that would have long-lasting effects for city residents.
He said it was the “right time” for citizens’ involvement, as the city master plan was due for “revision” by 2014. There is also a change of administration, with the chamber hopeful that the business group can work closely with the new leadership.
“If I were to criticize anything, it was how it was pursued. Somebody submitted something, it was approved and budgeted, that’s it,” Larrazabal said in apparent reference to the story how the park rehabilitation came to be.
Accordingly, a civic club wanted to donate benches for the park but noted that such elegantly-designed benches looked incongruous to the plaza which was rundown and more oftentimes a baratillo area than the open space it was supposed to be. To perk the interest of the city, architect Wenceslao Arcuino Jr. submitted a design for the park improvement, saying he was not charging the city for it but asking funds be allocated for its implementation. The City took up the issue and allocated P 8.9-million for the project.
A speaker during the forum was Max von Rotel, a German architect and a consultant of the German-funded AFOS which is the chamber’s partner in its tourism development programs.
The architect shared that he had already seen the plans to rehabilitate the area and that as a well-travelled architect, he was just sharing his insights. He noted that the current “open space” had many “monuments” or markers, or structures obstructing the view to the sea.
He also suggested that as to the other areas still up for development, that a contest be held by the city for professional architects and consultants to join, taking in not only aesthetics into consideration but also the environment.
Present also during the forum were two representatives from the city engineering office, engineers Virgie Matuguina and Sonia Antonio. The invited representative from the City Planning Office did not show up, but the chamber was told it was architect Maribeth Ebcas, wife of newly-elected city councilor Godie Ebcas, who was attending.
The two engineers took note of the observations made and promised to convey this to city officials.
Among the observations that cropped up was the lack of a waste management system that would effectively keep the park area clean 24-hours a day.
There was also a demand for the return of the “Park Police”; to close the park at certain hours of the day and discourage motorists from racing at the wide boulevard in the middle, making it hazardous to playing children.
Pacita Martinez, president of the vendors’ cooperative at the food park area, agreed that stakeholders like them should be consulted in process of rehabilitating the park.
She said they were told last year that the current food park would be renovated but haven’t heard about it lately. However, if plans push through, she noted that it would be helpful if they were consulted of how it would executed because they have their own ideas on how to do it that would be helpful to them like giving them equal access to the expected foot traffic. Right now, she said, the food park’s design only favors those who are near the entrance. By LMJ