Track oval is finally on track

Mayor Tommy Osmeña, last Feb. 15, sent this text message to my father, Bunny: “Pls pass to ur son john on his email. He appeals to repair CCSC track oval. Thank him for his concern. I have been looking into this on and off the past 3 years. Estimates run as high as $1M for the same quality, approved by IOC etc. There are cheaper rubberized tracks but u get what u pay for: low life like other cities have. Unfortunately, the contractor who did a fine job with ours cannot be located. We will do continuing research bcuz rubber tracks can be a major source of graft bcuz of the wide variance of prices and quality. Worse case is we pay a lot for crap. Also at exchange rate of P50 or P50m, it frankly won’t rank in the top ten priorities of the city.”

Mayor Osmeña, as we all know, is candid, straightforward, frank. And, frankly speaking, when I received that SMS, I thought the push to fix our Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC) track oval was dead. But, no. Days after, the mayor—then in Houston, Texas—commanded his allies that included Joy Young, Bimbo Fernandez and Ricky Ballesteros to accelerate the search for contractors.

Within two weeks, former congressman Joy Young listened to the presentations of two suppliers. And, to make matters better, when Acting Mayor Mike Rama received the P348-million SRP payment from Filinvest, guess what project he promised they’d fund first? The CCSC oval. Finally, reported in page 8 last Wednesday, this headline story: OSMENA OKAYS REPAIR OF CCSC TRACK.

This is splendid news! The bad news? The repair will commence next year—not in 2009—right after the Sinulog. Why? If the funds are sleeping inside the city’s back accounts, why wait after 10 months? Digging deeper, I raise a few questions:

1) Since elections are on May 10, 2010, won’t the repair collide with the ban on public works—which states that projects should not be within months of the elections?

2) The mayor has allocated P35 million for the oval—the bulk of which will be spent on imported rubber. This budget presupposes the current exchange rate of P48:$1. But what if, given the volatility of the world financial market, the dollar shoots up to P60 and the budget balloons to P50-million?

3) What if the funds, by 2010, will be used for other emergency projects that may arise? Will the repair be shelved?

I called Joy Augustus Young. “The project will push through,” he told me last Friday, “despite it coinciding with the elections. We will find a way to be exempted or something. I don’t foresee that to be a problem.”

The dollar exchange rate? “Well, that’s true,” he said, “but there’s also a chance the dollar rate can go down. So we can’t really predict that.” As to the fund allocation? “As what the mayor said, this project is already a ‘Go.’ Which means that an amount will be set aside, this year, for the project,” he said.

“But the main reason why we should be patient and wait after next year’s Sinulog,” said Joy, “is because this project will take time. First, we will thoroughly evaluate all the contractors. We just visited Dumaguete City and inspected their brand-new oval. We’ll spend more time checking other track facilities. Next, the bidding process takes time. This might take two months. After that, if all is approved and a contractor is picked, we’ll have to excavate the existing layer of rubber. Next, we’ll have to check the underlying asphalt to see if we need to repair that.

“Only then can the brand-new rubber be poured. That process, including the use of laser equipment to ensure the flatness of the surface, will take 60 to 90 days. By the time all is finished, it will be December—and the rubber will still be soft. Imagine a brand-new, soft surface that will be trampled during the Sinulog? Ma sayang lang.”

Now I understand. And so, let us wait. For, as the Turkish proverb goes, “Patience is the key to paradise.” After 15 years since the CCSC was built, what’s a few months of wait until Cebuanos see the runners’ paradise?

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