In keeping with the spirit of the Christmas and in a move that surprised many, the provincial government of Camarines Sur and the Naga City government set aside their political differences when Governor LRay Villafuerte and Mayor John Bongat jointly undertook the ceremonial switching of the Christmas lightings at Plaza Rizal in Naga City on Wednesday, Dec. 15.
Among other reasons, the animosity between the two local government units was largely exacerbated by a long-standing issue of ownership and administration of Plaza Rizal itself, a controversy that has plagued so many governors and mayors since Naga became a chartered city.
The province has always claimed ownership of Plaza Rizal, having maintained the park located right across where the former provincial capitol stood along General Luna Street.
Recently however, the administration of the Plaza Rizal was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court in favor of the city government, a decision publicly accepted by Governor Villafuerte who has, however, similarly stood firm about being still the owner of the park.
With the issue hanging above the province and the city, Plaza Rizal turned out to be a dark area at the city’s old business district with none of the LGUs concerned taking the initiative to light up the park for Christmas.
Residents of CamSur and Naga City looked at the joint Christmas decorative light switching ceremony led by the two local chief executives as a symbolic lighting of the peace pipe between the two warring local governments.
“There will not only be light at Plaza Rizal but love, serenity and peace. Plaza Rizal, after all, belongs not to the Province of CamSur, not to Naga City but to the Bicolanos. This is a rebirth of Plaza Rizal,” Villafuerte said in his brief message during the ceremony.
Everybody at the ceremony shared the same sentiment, particularly a very enthusiastic Mayor Bongat and an evidently very relieved Most Rev. Leonardo Z. Legaspi who said he always believed his being to such occasions was only to deter any outburst of altercation between representatives of the province and the city.