Leaders from multisectoral groups in Dumaguete City have expressed their support to the proposed 174-hectare smart city project, following a series of public forums with Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo.
The sectors include business process outsourcing workers, pastors from Christian churches, Muslim communities, fisherfolk, pedicab drivers, market vendors and coastal barangay residents.
According the groups’ leaders, the planned development will create tens of thousands of jobs and income opportunities in the city and neighboring towns in Negros Oriental, as well as in Cebu, Siquijor and northern Mindanao
According to local evangelical leader Pastor Robert Nadala, he believes that the project will be beneficial to the city and the next generation of Dumaguetenos.
He compared the Smart City to reclamation projects in Cebu where he was among the oppositors to the South Road Properties due to its environmental effects. He said that after the implementation of the reclamation, people have seen its benefits in reducing traffic congestion and spurring economic activities.
Moreover, Imam Abdul Maula Muhsin of the Masjidus Salam in Bagacay village expressed the support of the Islamic community to the city administration and its projects which benefit its constituents.
Dumaguete City Bangus Fry Association, a fisherfolk group, has also backed the project as it will protect coastal barangays from periodic destructive storm surges.
“Now is the time to shift into a concrete solution without disregarding the environment. I go for the 174-hectare reclamation project with a bold condition that a coastal road with a seawall will be built to stop erosion and protect the constituents along the coastal areas,” says group president Marlan Quan.
Local officials from the nearby municipalities of Sibulan, Bacong, Valencia and Dauin, meanwhile have also expressed guarded optimism on the project’s benefits on their local economies.
“I would like to personally congratulate Mayor Remollo, for you have intellectually stimulated the people of Negros Oriental with this (smart city) proposal,” says Sibulan Councilor Dirkie Fontelo.
Touted to be a global township, the said project will be built by reclaiming portions of the sea without obstructing the scenic view at Rizal Boulevard, the city’s main attraction and recreational space.
A public-private partnership proposal by EM Cuerpo Inc, a contractor of Build, Build, Builder flagship infrastructures under the Duterte administration, it will be developed at no cost to the local government.
“The five-year, P 23-billion project will transform Dumaguete into a highly-urbanized city and an economic powerhouse in the southern Philippines. It will have modern information technologies, earth-friendly building systems, earth-friendly energy sources and transportation, a mixed-use business park, as well as public facilities for health, housing, education, sports, and transportation,” Remollo said.
He added that the master-planned development will start with a wave protection system to protect coastal communities, and wastewater treatment plant to improve the quality of the bay’s polluted water.
He revealed that a group of Cebu-based scuba divers from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently assessed Dumaguete’s marine resources, which will be used to map the area to be reclaimed to minimize damage to underwater life.
Remollo concluded that the city government will put in place a “avoid, integrate, replace” framework if the project pushes through to mitigate its impact on the environment.
Information drives and consultations will also be conducted with other sectors such as the academic community, religious leaders, informal workers, local businessmen, senior citizens, and Negros Oriental local officials.