Church’s Summer Trade Fair in plaza might not push through

By Glazyl Y. Masculino

BACOLOD City – Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez said on Monday that he is inclined to disallow vendors at the public plaza, despite the Church’s proposal for a two-month Summer Trade Fair from March 15 to May 15.

In a letter dated February 15, Bishop Patricio Buzon stated that the Church planned to use its property at the public plaza for the Summer Trade Fair, featuring souvenir items and dry goods.

The trade fair would cover the sidewalk on Gatuslao Street across from Merzci Bread and Pastries, and the length of the sidewalk along Rizal Street, fronting La Consolacion College (LCC), all the way to the Queen City Development Bank.

Buzon mentioned that donations from this fair would significantly aid in providing medical care for their retired and ailing priests residing at Domus Dei in Silay City, Negros Occidental.

The bishop’s letter was endorsed by the City Council on February 19.

In a press briefing on Monday, Benitez recalled his earlier meeting with Buzon, where they discussed the city’s plan to disallow vendors at the plaza to maintain its visuals and prestige.

Benitez said the bishop had no strong objections to it. The mayor mentioned that the city would find ways to help the Church generate funds for the priests’ retirement.

“We would like our plaza to maintain its prestige and visual appeal,” he said.

This stance followed the city’s observation last year that the stalls selling dry goods, such as “Ukay-Ukay” (second-hand clothes) around the public plaza, were considered an “eyesore.”

However, Benitez noted his openness to relocating the vendors. “As long as it does not disrupt the vicinity of the plaza, then I’m okay,” he said.

The city government has engaged the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) for the improvement of the facilities at the public plaza and the Bacolod City Government Center (BCGC).

Benitez had previously mentioned that the city government requested P300 million in funding from the Department of Tourism (DOT). This budget included P80 million for a water fountain at the plaza and P220 million for renovating the BCGC grounds.

Benitez is awaiting TIEZA’s final approval upon submission of some requirements and is hopeful that the project will be approved and completed within the year.

Meanwhile, City Engineer Loben Raphael Ceballos reported that they are waiting for the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to respond to the documents submitted by the Church on February 6 for the repair of the San Sebastian Cathedral.

Ceballos explained that the NHCP had outlined certain requirements for the repair of the structure, which is under the NHCP’s jurisdiction.

According to the scope of work, the Church intends to conduct extensive repairs, particularly to the ceiling and electrical wiring, due to concerns about fire risk. “There’s a portion of the ceiling that’s deteriorating, and the electrical wiring is very old, which poses a fire risk,” he added.

Despite these issues, Ceballos assured that the Church has implemented safety measures to prevent any incidents during Holy Mass.

Two weeks ago, the Diocese of Bacolod temporarily halted the restoration and repairs of the San Sebastian Cathedral, pending NHCP approval.