Bohol residents are still waiting for the groundbreaking of the SM Tagbilaran Bohol Mall, the first SM SuperMall in the province, which was supposed to start construction in October 2023, according to Bohol Governor Aris Aumentado.
However, it is now November and there is no sign of any activity at the planned site at the back of Camp Bernido area near Island City Mall.
Governor Aumentado, who announced the mall project in September 2023, has not issued any statement or explanation why his pronouncement was a flop.
He also has not responded to the inquiries from the media and the public about the status of the mall project.
The governor previously said that the mall project will create more jobs and opportunities for the Boholanos, especially for the construction workers.
He also said that he had requested the SM management to include the National University, a leading educational institution in the country, in their investment in Bohol.
SM SuperMalls Senior Vice President for Operations Engr. Bien C. Mateo, who met with the governor in September 2023, also has not given any update or clarification on the mall project.
Mateo said that they have already secured the fencing permit and completed the detailed engineering design and structural design of the mall.
He said that they are very happy to partner with the provincial government of Bohol and bring their SM brand to the island.
The SM Tagbilaran Mall will be the 79th SM SuperMall in the country and the 12th in Visayas. It will have four floors with a gross floor area of 120,000 square meters. The shopping giant center will feature various retail shops, restaurants, cinemas, a supermarket, a department store, a cyberzone, a trade hall, and a chapel.
The mall is expected to be completed by 2025 and will generate about 3,000 direct and indirect jobs for the locals, SM said.
The delay of the mall project has raised questions and doubts among the Boholanos, who have long been dreaming of having an SM mall in their province.
Some have speculated that the mall project may have encountered some problems or challenges, such as land acquisition, environmental compliance, or local opposition.
Others have wondered if the mall project is still feasible or profitable, given the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the competition from other existing and upcoming malls in the province.
Aumentado’s promise to bring SM Mall to Bohol was a major campaign promise during his 2022 gubernatorial election campaign.
He had repeatedly promised that the mall would be built within a year of his taking office.
However, with the deadline now having passed, there is no sign of any construction activity at the proposed site of the mall.
The failure of Aumentado to deliver on his promise has been met with disappointment from many Boholanos, according to comments on social media platforms.
Many residents were looking forward to the opening of the mall, as it would have provided new jobs and economic opportunities for the province.
The Capitol has not issued any statement explaining the delay, and his office has not responded to requests for comment.
SM Mall management has also been silent on the issue. It is unclear whether the company is still committed to building a mall in Bohol, or whether it has abandoned the project.
QUESTION ON URBAN PLANNING
Earlier, SM’s entry to Bohol has sparked a debate on urban planning and sustainable development.
While many are excited about the economic benefits and opportunities that the giant retailer will bring, some are concerned about the potential risks and challenges that it will pose to the city’s infrastructure, environment, and quality of life.
One of the voices that raised these concerns is Alfonso “Ae” Damalerio, a local entrepreneur and advocate for sustainable development.
In a statement posted on his official Facebook account, Damalerio enumerated some of the issues that need to be considered before SM breaks ground in Tagbilaran City. These include traffic congestion, road access, parking space, waste management, sewerage systems, and zoning laws.
Damalerio, a former Provincial Administrator, pointed out that the proposed site of SM, which is between Hangos and Calceta Street, is already crowded with commercial establishments and other big institutions, such as the New Capitol, the City Hall, the Hall of Justice, the Department of Agriculture, CITI Hardware, Island City Mall, Triumph Hardware, Tagbilaran Uptown I.T. Hub, Holy Name University, the Integrated Bus Terminal and Dao Public Market, Tagbilaran City Hall and Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Hospital.
He noted that the upcoming City Colosseum will be added to this area.
“Given the abovementioned circumstances, has the local government – Provincial and City alike, considered a more advanced road network and safety plan? A more efficient traffic management system? Issues on waste management and sewerage systems? All of these are primordial for urban development,” Damalerio asked.
He suggested that there might be other underdeveloped areas that can be explored for SM’s location, such as Barangays Tiptip and Cabawan or the Municipalities of Corella, Cortes, or Baclayon.
The former provincial Board Member said that local authorities have expansive opportunities to proactively come up with holistic plans that could support huge developments such as four-lane roads, diversion roads, bypass roads and other infrastructure requirements, and to identify new growth centers and other points for industrial activities to prevent choking points within the city and allow public and private vehicles and pedestrians to conveniently flow.