Sagarbarria, in an interview with the Dumaguete MetroPost, said he is, however, in favor of closing the Rizal Boulevard to make way for promenaders. “The boulevard,” Sagarbarria said, “is the better option for a promenade because most businesses along the boulevard cater to the hospitality industry.”
Sagarbarria said that what Perdices Avenue would need to make it conducive for walking is a uniform-—not a multi-level–sidewalk. “If the City Council appropriates money to repair the sidewalk, I will look for money to have it done right away,” he said.
The Mayor also said that he has disapproved a move of the City Council to close Perdices St. from 12 noon to midnight of Sept. 24, the international day for moving away from fossil fuels.
He said that the City can better support the organizers of the Sept. 24 event because they can make use of the power outlets at the boulevard, unlike in Perdices St. where the City has no power outlets installed.
The City can also install portable toilets along the boulevard for promenaders, which they cannot do along Perdices St., Sagarbarria said.
The Mayor was sought for comment after the City Council Committee on Peace and Order, Transportation and Traffic held a public hearing Friday regarding the proposed law to convert Perdices St. into a promenade on weekends and holidays.
The public hearing was chaired by Councilor Nilo Sayson with Councilors Manny Arbon, Joe Kenneth Arbas, Antonio Remollo, Albert Aquino and Vice Mayor Alan Gel Cordova as committee members.
Officers of the Negros Oriental Chamber of Commerce and Industry, led by Edward Du, voiced their opposition to the proposed law, citing potential business losses and lack of parking space in the City.
Some businessmen said Dumaguete needs to open more roads instead of closing them due to increased traffic congestion.
But the backers of the law, composed of students, academicians, environmentalists and private individuals, said the law is in line with the concept of having walkable cities.
Dr. Aparicio Mequi, dean of the Foundation University Graduate School, said the economic benefits of a walking community are very high compared to a sprawling community.
FU students also spoke on the benefits of walking for a healthy lifestyle.
Vice Mayor Cordova, for his part, said the proposed law needs careful study to ensure that the interests of all stakeholders are addressed. He said that the City should ensure that the business sector will not be disadvantaged by this law. “If there is a measure that affects businesses, that measure should not see the light of day,” he said.
Cordova underscored the drop in the City’s Internal Revenue Allotment next year to the tune of P30 million. “We have to preserve the health of our business sector because we rely on each other,” Cordova said.
This was echoed by Councilor Remollo, who said that the business sector is the lifeblood of the City. Remollo said that the September 24 activity, if carried out, will serve as a trial run for a Perdices Promenade. “We will have another public hearing, if needed,” he said.
Environmentalist Leo Mamicpic said that 90 percent of the population do not have vehicles. “Governance is for the greater good. It’s for the 90 percent of the people who do not have vehicles,” he said.
Councilor Arbon, meanwhile, said there should also be ways to improve the traffic situation in Dumaguete, such as imposing a color-coding scheme for tricycles. (With reports from Candido Lato/SU Masscom intern)