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STATE OF CITY REPORT: “The future is ours”

By Jason B. Neola
Bicol Mail

REPORT. Naga City Mayor John G. Bongat delivers his State of the City Report at the People’s Hall, Naga City Hall. Photo by DANNY AUREUS

Applauded ten times while expounding on the gains achieved by the city from 2010 up to the present, Mayor John G. Bongat ended his 2-hour-and-12-minute State of Our City Report (SOCR) with an assurance Team Naga will “continuously uphold the core values of dynamic citizen participation, transparency, and public accountability.”

Before going to the specifics of his report, the city mayor stressed that the main actors behind the impressive achievements of the city government are not the City Hall workers alone but Nagueños who are taking part in defining the future of the city.

“It is not only us, but all of us,” Bongat told a jampacked Naga City People’s Hall last Tuesday, as he emphasized the principle of the H2ELP Your CiTy agenda that calls on every Nagueño to be participative in running the affairs of the city government and “take part in charting the future of our city and the future of our people.”

“The future is ours,” Bongat said while giving emphasis on the importance of teamwork and oneness of the city officials and the public in “charting the future of our progress as one people and as a city.”

The H2ELP Your CiTy agenda, the city mayor said,  has been formally adopted as city policy by the Sangguniang Panlungsod in November last year, with the approval of the 10-year Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP).

In his report to the people of Naga City, Bongat cited strides made in various fronts, including the economy, health, education, peace and order, among others.

Based on figures presented by the mayor, Naga continues to thrive as the premier city in Bicol region, generating P3.87 billion worth of new investments from 2010.

“While investment generation dipped in 2010, this recovered in 2012, with total value of investments exceeding 2011 figures by 12%”, the report said.   It noted that while inflows in construction and residential development went down, this was more than made up for by investments in new enterprises.

Efforts in economic development from 2010 are estimated to have created 15,488 jobs.

Aggressive tourism efforts are in the works after the city identified tourism development, in 2010, as a priority effort.   Accommodation establishments (hotels, inns, guesthouses and beds-and-breakfast)  grew by 65% in terms of number and 27% in terms of rooms and room capacity between 2010 and 2012 in response to the city’s initiative.

Peace and order also saw marked improvement. Between 2011 and 2012, total crime volume dropped by 20%, from 1,659 to 1,326. Of the total, roughly two of every three are index crimes which went down by 11%; non-index petty crimes, on the other hand, showed a bigger reduction of 36%.In terms of specific type of crime, the biggest improvement involves the notorious riding in-tandem cases, which plummeted by 66% from 65 in 2011 to only 22 in 2012.

It was noted that while crime volume shrank by 20%, police operatives, in partnership with the Public Safety Office of the city, solved 78 more cases in 2012 than in the previous year, which yielded a 17 percentage point improvement in crime solution efficiency (CSE) from 43 to 60%.

The city also invested P7.2 million in a network of CCTVs strategically located in the city’s urban district, as well as the traffic lights along Elias Angeles. Additional traffic lights along Peñafrancia, especially at the Magsaysay and Colgante junctions are expected to be put up soon.

In the environment sector, Mayor Bongat cites the 19-MW waste-to-energy power plant in a five-hectare property acquired by the city government in Barangay San Isidro as a major milestone. Full blast construction of the facility is expected to be undertaken between now and 2014, which will require around 100 tons of municipal solid waste per day.

With the completion of the Pre-Feasibility Study for the flagship Integrated Naga River Revitalization Project (iNRRP) of the city government, with technical assistance extended by the Cities Development Initiative for Asia (CDIA), the city will now press on with the project.  The P20-million river transport component of this P2.1 billion comprehensive package will be implemented by the first half of the year, anchored on the construction of five wharfs along Naga River that will serve as staging area for the reintroduction of regular ferry service up and down said river.

Other accomplishments cited in the report include the following:

Implementation of a P20-million upgrade of the Naga City Hospital in partnership with the Department of Health, and the establishment of an infirmary at the Pacol-Carolina area to cater to the needs of upland barangays;  establishment of a fully-functioning breastfeeding center within City Hall and establishment of similar facilities in all government offices, public elementary schools, and private institutions in the city; opening of two new project sites for the Kaantabay sa Kauswagan (KsK) program;  accelerated titling of several KsK project sites; reinvesting P13 million in eight upgrading projects.

The city also broke ground on the Naga City Employees Housing Project in Barangay Del Rosario, whose Phase I estimated to cost P12.6 million will initially benefit 48 employees of the city government.  The project is a partnership of the Bicol Habitat for Humanity Foundation, Inc. and the Home Mutual Development Fund (HMDF), an arrangement that is a first in the history of local governance in the Philippines to make housing affordable for low-income City Hall employees.

The Mayor, on the other hand, noted  a need for “deeper soul-searching” on the part of education stakeholders, including the Department of Education, where dips in academic outcomes were noted with declines in division performance in the National AChievement  Test (NAT), including high school.

Mayor Bongat said he found this unacceptable while the city government has not been remiss in its obligation to support the public school system.  The city fielded close to 150 locally funded teachers to keep class sizes in public elementary and high schools more manageable (drawn from the Special Education Fund), and invested P12.5 million in 13 school infrastructure projects, ranging from school buildings, fencing, and other physical facilities, he said.

The silver lining in the education sector is that the sizeable annual investment on the QUEEN program is bearing fruit with more students being able to enrol and are able to reach a point where they can graduate from school.  With the program, the city has finally broken past 80% in elementary cohort survival after five years of trying.  Growth at the high school level is just as robust, according to the report.

This year’s State of Our City Report has been enthusiastically received by the business sector and the general public.

Jeremie S. Lo, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Bicol Governor, said that the changes under the current administration were very visible.  The atmosphere of openness and transparency that has characterized city hall is maintained, leading to more confidence on the part of the business sector.

Judge Antonio Ayo Jr., RTC Judge (Br. 62), on the other hand, lauded the Bongat administration for keeping government close to the people, one of the legacies of the late Secretary Jesse M. Robredo.