October 22, 2006

Joseph H. Tamayo

Quo vadis Laoag, urbanization or stagnation?

This is one question that the people of Laoag City and her Leaders, political or otherwise, must consider as they plan their next move towards the future.

The VISION established by the people represented by the various sectoral groups that responded to the invitation of the CDS3 Team of Laoag during the Stakeholders’ Visioning and Strategies Formulation held sometime in August 2006 speaks of the choice of the people. The VISION that is already submitted to the League of Cities-CDS Program states:

“By the year 2020, the Sunshine City and the Northern Gateway of the Philippines, will be a ‘METROPOLITAN CENTER in the NORTH’ where economic growth and development abound for the people to share and enjoy.”

The people have spoken. The choice is URBANIZATION, NOT STAGNATION.

Putting this in mind, brings us back to the issue of this corner on the Ilocos Times entitled “Rapid Urbanization: Boon or Curse?” It is on this premise why each member of the CDS3 Team must have to be very careful in promulgating the long-range plan such as development or urbanizing will not be too slow or too rapid. Targets, strategies and development projects prioritization based on the four CDS Principles that are BANKABILITY (Mapangnamnamaan), COMPETITIVENESS (Pakaidumdumaan), LIVABILITY (Kinatalged iti Panagbiag) and GOOD GOVERNANCE (Nasayaat a Pannakaiwanwan iti Gobiyerno) where each principle is assigned to each of the 4 groups formed from the 12 members of the CDS3 Team to formulate and deliberate upon or say, hold brainstorming sessions on the out puts to ensure the attainment of desired result and objectives.

I believe it is safe for me to say that the 15-year plan to attain the Vision clearly indicates the choice the people made. It is Urbanization indeed. But it is a calculated urbanization, not a rapid phase of urbanizing that may spell danger, providing an ample time and space until the goal is reached. It is not too slow either. Because a slow pace likewise poses the danger of impatience and will encourage and give the chance for the entry of the negative value commonly known as “Ningas Kugon.” In line with this, the CDS3 Team is now on that stage where strategies are being put into place based on a realistic and doable three phases based on a five (5) mid plans for each phase. The team is now in the process of carefully selecting and distributing identified projects, strategies, systems and schemes that shall be submitted for further study by those manning the LCP-CDS Program after which shall become a part of that bigger plan. The team is making sure that not sector of the many sectors of Laoag’s social strata shall be offended or be discriminated. General welfare is the biggest consideration every time the team moves in completing the program. A saying from the great Chinese philosopher Confucius states: “A turtle, no matter how slow it moves, as long as it keeps on moving and in the right direction, it will reach its destination.” So why hurry? A moderate or a tempered move towards a high level urbanization is all what Laoag City needs. It will surely get there provided proper planning, the right approaches and, RIGHT ATTITUDE in the implementation of plans are strictly followed and observed.

Why do the members of the CDS3ph Team doing all these? Sacrificing their time and energy (sometimes working overtime up to the late hours of the evening, work even on Saturdays and Sundays, or even work on the requirements at home? Allow me to put it this way.

Perhaps, most of us who are active in the CDS3ph Program have a common denominator why we are doing these things. Yes, that is a part of our job as officials and employees of the government sworn to serve the people. But obviously, that is not the main reason. The truth is that we have that common factor which is our ardent desire to prove that Laoag City can become a place that everybody had expected over the years, a city whose economy is very much alive and where each and everyone lives peacefully and securely. Another factor that is inspiring us to do what we are doing is our realization that our city after forty (40) years as a city, is lagging behind other LGUs that became cities just a few years back as regard to progress, prosperity and economic development. If compared to other cities like Candon, San Fernando, Tarlac, Dagupan, Urdaneta, Bayawan, Calbayog, Island Garden City of Samar (IGACoS,) Gen San, Ormoc, Marikina and many others, Laoag, as we often say in the national parlance “medyo kumakain na ng alikabok,” because it is now being left behind. Why? Because our local government has not established a target, a goal, a vision call it what you want, but for me “it is the lack of a definite direction.” A direction geared towards improving the lives of the present and future generations of Laoaguenios. It is also a fact that since Laoag City became a chartered city in 1966, great leaders like Eulalio F. Siazon++, Damaso Samonte++, Manuel Santos++, Former City Mayor, former Governor and former Congressman RODOLFO C. FARINAS, Ernesto E.T. Tamayo++, former Mayor CESAR A. VENTURA, former Mayor ROGER C. FARINAS did their best to bring progress and prosperity at the doorstep of our city but fell short of achieving success because of the rapid transition of leadership. Each one having their own political agenda, agenda that perhaps, manifested the intention of trying to outdo each other, the attainment of a strong economy that could have spelled a lot of difference to the lives of the present population of more or less 99,000 Laoaguenios, in my opinion, fell short of achieving success. The present local dispensation with City Mayor MICHAEL V. FARINAS being at the helm thinks otherwise. He wants to establish a very definite direction even if it will take 15, 20 or even more years before achieving success. The opportunity having offered in a silver platter by the CDSph Program of the League of Cities, Mayor MVF grabbed that opportunity guided by his principle that he alone cannot attain success. For to him, when various efforts are joined and various sectors are involved and multitude of brains and hands come together as one, then and only then that elusive dream or visions can be achieved. It is simply because by way of being included in the short list of CDS Cities in the world it will open doors of opportunities for greater development, economic, social, industrial, tourism, political and other forms of development that can improve our city and our people’s living condition and lifestyle.

Let us take the case of San Fernando City. Its entry in the CDS2ph program plus the dynamism of the Lady City Mayor Mary Jane Ortega, ushered that city into a very remarkable developmental change. Opportunities came knocking at its doors and were grabbed by the city mayor. San Fernando has become a recipient of numerous pilot projects funded by international financial institutions where most of this financial assistance is in the form of grants. Example of this was the fund granted by JICA in order for the city to construct a diversion road in an attempt to decongest traffic in its CBD. The latest grant extended to San Fernando City was that from a European Union Financing Institution in the amount of PhP160M for the transformation of the city’s engineered sanitary landfill into a huge eco tourism park that will realize the vision of the city to become the “Botanical Garden City of Northern Philippines. This was when Mayor Ortega was invited as a success story sharer in one of the CDS International Forum.

The same is true in the case of Marikina City. This once drab LGU where I spent 13 long years of my life, 4 years as a student in one of the universities in Manila, I stayed in my brother’s house located in the flood prone Mountain View Village, New Marikina Subdivision just at the back of the city hall and the Rodriguez Sports Center. Drab I say because only the old ARCEGAS and Marikina Shoe Trade Expo were famous landmarks. The Santa Lucia Shopping Mall in Cainta then was far from being constructed. The Marikina River Banks was then the domain of the giant U-Tex Mills Inc. Only Sumulong Highway was the only highway leading to Marikina. Clumping was the most famous area then in that municipality. Marikina’s inclusion in the roster of CDS cities, “naglupos a namimpinsan ti itsurana.” It has changed a lot. Now, there stands the world-class city hall and the highly competitive Marikina Sports Complex (nee Rodriguez.) Likewise, it now owns a Hotel where the CDS3 workshops were held recently and many amenities that were availed by the city through funding from various financial institutions. Calumpang, which was once a hub of GROs, has been transformed into a residential area for the shoemakers of quality shoes of which the city is known for locally and internationally.

In the previous issue of Ilocos Times, this column mentioned of two cities from the CDS2ph Program. Calbayog (former Biliran) which became a city only 5 years ago, recently, was a recipient of a PhP2B grant that was used to transform the long stretch of a rough and stony Calbayog – Catarman Highway and is now fully concreted and that connects the City to the other industrial hubs (which was one of their objectives in attaining their Vision) of Northern Mindanao. That city’s request for funds from the JICA was easily granted as this project was endorsed by the LCP-CDS. The city was also granted PhP620M by the World Bank for the concreting of the Roxas-Matingog-Dawo Circumferential Road and from JICA –PhP850M for the replacement of wooden electric post to steel electric posts. City Mayor Mel Senen S. Sarmiento of Calbayog also mentioned of various technical assistance to the city from various international groups such as WB-WDDP for the Drainage System Master Plan and the improvement of the city airport, and, the improvement of the City High School. Assistance also came from other sources like UN Habitat for the Localization of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG), USAID for Waste Water Management, Clean Air Program, Protection of Women and Children, JICA for Solid Waste Management, EU for Sustainable Urban Water Management and UN FAO for Joint Trade and Economic Development.

The foregoing illustrates the advantage/s of being a CDS listed city. These are proofs that outsourcing is a lot easier with CDS intercession. This will help very much in the development of an LGU and will surely cut down TOO MUCH GRANDSTANDING and squabbles inside a highly politically charged LGU. Success stories like these are awesome and inspiring.

As the Laoag City CDS3 Team indulges into deep and serious work to make things work out for the people of Laoag, we cannot help but to bear in mind and anticipate a probable hindrance and stumbling block that could dampen our chances to complete the task. This stumbling block is listed as one of the WEAKNESSES of our city under the SWOT Analysis. This is what is termed as FRACTIOUS POLITICS. Whatever this is, let me think or ponder upon what benefit will it serve if I explain this in the forthcoming issue. I will have to weight things.

Anyway the CDS3 Team will be traveling again to Quezon City, one of the pioneer cities under the CDS program and where the 2nd CDS3 Cluster Workshop on the Draft CDS and Preparing the Capital Investment Program (CIP). This is scheduled on October 25-26,2006 where our City Mayor Michael V. Fariñas MUST present and discuss the Full Report submitted by the CDS3 Team to the LCP relative to the module on Formulation of Strategies and Evaluating/Ranking Development Projects that shall be undertaken and very vital while moving towards the attainment of the City Vision. Anyway there are a lot of other issues to be writing about column anyway.

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