At Sinulog Festival, Duterte promises funding for Cebu infra, transpo projects

CEBU CITY, Philippines – During President Rodrigo Duterte's appearance at the Cebu City Sports Complex for the Sinulog Festival here on Sunday, January 19, he promised funds for infrastructure and transportation projects in Cebu.

“Cebu is greatly developing, but the problem is transportation,” Duterte said. “Your roads here are small. That's because Cebu is an old city,” he added.

This was Duterte’s first time attending the Sinulog Festival since becoming president. 

It’s also the first Sinulog under the watch of Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella. The first-term mayor was endorsed by Duterte and was carried by his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago slate.

The President entered the stadium, filled with about 5,000 festivalgoers at around 5:30 pm. 

Before speaking, he watched 2 Sinulog competition contingents. First was by the town of Alcoy. Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia danced the Sinulog with Alcoy for the President. The next performance was by Lumad Basakanon, of Barangy Basak, Pardo, Cebu City.

Labella was able to unseat his rival, longtime scion Tomas Osmeña in the 2019 election with the help of Duterte.


Fixing traffic was also one of Labella’s campaign promises when he ran for mayor.

He is currently pushing for an intermodal mass transportation system that combines a monorail system with a bus rapid transit (BRT) system, as well as jeepney feeders. (READ: BRT to push through in Cebu, Quezon Avenue


Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corporation was the sole-bidder of the monorail system. Uy is a known ally of Duterte.

Duterte suggested building elevated skyways to fix traffic in the Metro, much like the skyways of Metro Manila. 

In October, the Cebu provincial board passed a resolution declaring a traffic crisis in Metro Cebu, saying that gridlock and congestion was worsening every day on the island.

Duterte traces his roots to Cebu City, where he won by a landslide in the 2016 election with 1.4 million votes over the 600,000 garnered by rival ex-Interior Secretary Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas.

 Cebu is the most vote-rich province in the country with about 3 million registered voters, according to 2019 Commission on Elections data.

Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia helped campaign for Duterte when he ran for President in 2016.

 On local infrastructure projects, Duterte told his local allies in Cebu, however, that he wanted them to only start projects that could be completed.

This is a policy he has stated several times in the past regarding the remaining projects on his ‘Build, Build, Build,’ program.


Despite starting with an ambitious goal of 75 big-ticket projects, 3 years into his term, his list had to be tweaked after realizing that many of them were too expensive. 

One such project was Duterte’s ambition to link all 3 major Philippine island groups. 


Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia disclosed that Duterte’s ambition to link all of the 3 major Philippine islands just had too many obstacles (READ: Duterte's golden age of infrastructure will have to be completed by next president)

Duterte, known for his free-wheeling extemporaneous speeches, his address here lasted for only 20-minutes. He spoke in straight Cebuano the entire time. 

While he touched on topics like corruption, officials he fired and, of course, drugs, he did not attack priests or the Church – something that has been a staple in his speeches. 

Sinulog is a cultural festival that follows the week-long Fiesta Señor celebrations in Cebu City. The Sinulog is a Cebuano dance which is believed to have originated from the pre-hispanic indigenous tribes of Cebu.

Dancing the Sinulog is a modern way Cebuanos pay tribute to the Holy Child. 

At the end of his speech, Duterte reiterated that he would help Cebuanos find funds for their transportation projects. "I'll help you find money to fund your trains. I'll help you find money that's my promise."

He also shouted the traditional, "Viva Pit Señor (Long live the devotion to the Holy Child)!"

Duterte, whose presence prompted a lockdown and at the CCSC, left immediately after his speech. – Rappler.com

Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers Cebu and the Visayas for Rappler. He covers all news in the region, but is particularly interested in people stories, development issues and local policy making.

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