October 15, 2006
THE ILOCOS TIMES - OPINION

SHIFTING HANDS
Joseph H. Tamayo

Rapid urbanization: Boon or curse?

Part of the CDS3 Process is a review of the present trends and current situations prevailing in the cities that are enrolled in the program. The following presentation of this corner will share with the readers his observations and gathered information that will help us assess and compare our city to the rest.

During the CDS Workshop held in Marikina City last August 2006, my curiosity was developed by the presentation given by the highly urbanized cities of Baguio and Zamboanga. Considering the rapid growth of these cities, there was no need for them to enroll in the CDS Program. I asked myself, why did they enroll in the CDS? To my mind, they don’t need it. So I needed answers. So instead of joining the tour around Marikina for benchmarking purposes as regard to CDS inspired development projects in the host city, I decided to be at the plenary hall. Laoag made its presentation in the morning while Baguio and Zamboanga had theirs in the afternoon of the first day.

The first impression that the presenter from Baguio wanted to impress to those who were at the plenary was that their city has remained as the “Summer Capital” of the Philippines. We all know that don’t we? She also wanted to support the Highly Urbanized classification of her city despite being situated at the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) by stating several factors such as having a population of 300 hundred thousand residents including ‘resident aliens.’ What got me wondering was her claim that the allowable number of residents for the city to make it LIVABLE. She also attributed the classification to the presence of numerous educational institutions attracting students from various parts of Luzon to study there. Another attribute shared is that Baguio City is still the choice destination of foreign and local tourists contributing greatly to the city’s revenue. I just hope I heard it right and my pencil was accurate in noting down that the revenue of Baguio as reported is somewhere around P3 billion (?). Because of these facts I became very envious and the more I wished that Laoag City would be in the same situation. I believed that if only we have that kind of revenue in our city coffers, there would be no more squabbles between the Executive and Legislative branches of our city in regard to the utilization of funds. Budgeting would be a lot easier. And life would be a lot easier. But my imaginings were dampened when I heard the assessment made by the CONSULTANTS of the CDS3 program. Why dampened?

Mr. TONY AVILA, the consultant for Finance (BANKABILITY) opened with the statement, “the government of Baguio may be enjoying a boom in the financial aspect due to the large number of population but the city should now begin to review their policy on in-migration to arrest the astounding and seemingly uncontrollable influx of people who in the end decide to make Baguio City their home. He went on to review the sources of revenues and how the city government has come up with revenue generation programs such as collecting parking fees for the use of the streets as parking areas, by increasing hotel rates, cost of commodities and souvenir items, by increasing the cost of extra services like the use of public facilities. All of these are ways of taking advantage of the influx people and the pilgrimage of tourists, foreign or otherwise. The financial outline painted in the review as analyzed by Mr. Avila, no doubt, clearly magnified the financial capabilities of Baguio City. But what was left hanging in my mind was the opening statement that “Baguio City should consider its policy on population management and in-migration control.”

Then the screen containing the answers to the big question WHY was opened as Ms. BEBET GUZON, former secretary of the DENR, the CDS3 project director and at the same time the consultant for socio economic and environmental development started reviewing and analyzing the data that Baguio submitted to justify the LIVABILITY aspect of their presentation. Just like the initial statement of Mr. AVILA earlier, Ms Guzon started her assessment advising the representatives from Baguio to review their policies on population control, health, sanitation and environmental policies, economic policies, peace and order and safety policy, etc. In explaining her position, she stated that while human resource is still the greatest wealth that a government unit possesses, going far beyond the limits of the ideal number of population could compromise an LGU into so many negative situations. She went on to site some of the dangerous situations overpopulation could cause. She attributed the sudden appearance of squatters in the city, whereby creating problems in the environmental concern. She even made mention that the construction of houses in cliffs and ridges have compromised lives as these are contributory to landslides (that, according to her, might be coincidental, her statement that is) occurrence of which, have increased over the years. The congested traffic problem in Baguio is another compromising situation brought about by over population. She also mentioned pollution problems, health and sanitation, supply of water, solid waste management, housing problems and other social aspects that will reduce the economic advantage that Baguio has gained over the years. Come to think that even the weather Baguio has been famous for has deteriorated. It was stated by these consultants that the future would be bleak if the city will not immediately come up with safety nets to lessen the impact of these concerns.

It holds true with the situation of Zamboanga City, known as the Golden City in the South. With its classification as a highly urbanized city with a very high number of population and relatively, with enviable revenue, which also comes in billions of pesos (because it is an open seaport, a tourist destination that is rich in culture) according to the same consultants faces the same dilemma. One disgusting thing that was mentioned in their presentation is that the people have not adjusted to and considered the value of sanitation, solid waste management and environmental protection. Actually, the presenter of the report, who happens to be a councilor of that city, admitted that Zamboanga has a big problem because the people there tend to use the ocean as a large septic tank. Most of the houses are afloat over the South China Sea, which is vast in area, and in as much that the people disregard the importance of having their toilet facilities they choose to just put their feces in plastic bags and throws these into the ocean. The good councilor even humorously stated that this is the reason why the city does not have problems in what to feed their largest fishes.

Based on the foregoing, these two cities joined the CDS3 program not to really seek financial and other reasons except to avail of technical assistance in preparing a plan to arrest the possible negative impact that may be brought about by rapid urbanization within the next ten or fifteen years. As a proof, during the workshop, Baguio city attacked the mores serious concerns that now beleaguer the city, congested traffic and pollution. Traffic management is one of the most difficult problems to address. Aside from affecting the lives of the people in Baguio, it has also a great impact on commerce and it is a very expensive problem to solve. And this is just one concern brought about by rapid urbanization. What about the rest? How long and how will the government of that city address the varied concerns? Will it not eat up the present economic status of the city? These questions holds true in the case of Zamboanga City.

To my mind, if these concerns will not be addressed the soonest possible time, rapid out-migration will take place and therefore may result, God forbids, these LGUs total degradation. Hindi naman po sana.

If this is the case, why is it then that Laoag City is so much keen in joining the CDS3 program? Allow me to drive in this opinion, which you may believe or may not believe, consider or you may not.

Going back further, May 4-5, 2006, the first of the many seminar-workshops scheduled for the CDS3 program, success stories were presented. This was held at the CSB Hotel, Malate, Manila. Invited to present their stories were the cities of CALBAYOG and (have you heard or read of this city before?) IGACoS or the Island Garden City of Samal. Don’t ask me anything about this city because I’ve never been there. My article is based on the documentaries presented by no less than the city mayor of that city himself. He was so proud of his achievement.

The first three statements made by the city administrator of IGACoS who made the PowerPoint presentation caught me by surprise, awed me at the same time, and my immediate response was to grab for the paper and pencil that were provided by the LCP and wrote down the following:

1st Statement: “Despite that the city mayor had only had one ally in our City Council, we were able to complete the entry of IGACoS in the rooster of the LCP-CDS program.” After this statement, I wrote three bold letters. H-O-W?

2nd Statement: “In the process we in the CDS Team of Samal City adhered to the KAIZEN Principle and this guided us in our pursuit to attain our people’s objective and VISION that we submitted in the CDS Program.” The “KAIZEN Principle” says: “ALWAYS MAKE THE BEST BETTER – AND THERE IS NO OTHER WAY BUT UP!” Since then, every time that we move, we always bear this principle in our minds. In this manner we were able to overcome all stumbling blocks and we were able to attain progress and development in our city.”

3rd Statement: “One of our handicap is the absence of Telephones in our city being and island by itself. There were also limited number of cell phone owners and so we had to go to Davao City by pump boat just to be able to comply with the requirement of the CDS Program. ‘S-A-C-R-I-F-I-C-E for the good of our people and the next generations to come’ was another key and inspiring phrase.”

The other city that presented its PowerPoint success story is the progressive city of CALBAYOG. Despite its classification as an urbanizing city with huge revenue of about P3 billion, it worked for its inclusion in the Masterlist of CDS cities. Allow me to borrow an adage submitted by no less than the mayor of CALBAYOG himself. It goes this way,

VISION without ACTION is only a dream . . . . . . ..

ACTION without VISION merely passes TIME . . . . . . .

VISION with ACTION changes the WORLD . . . . . and shapes the FUTURE!

WONDERFUL, these foods for thoughts aren’t they? They are and I’m sure they will be worth discussing next issue, hopefully unless the CDS Team will be convened again, anyway despite typhoon Milenyo we were able to meet the deadline and finish the output of our city that again, MUST be presented and discussed by no less than the HON. MICHAEL V. FARIÑAS. There is just one appeal though that I personally would like to make through this column though formal information will be or could have already been forwarded to the LCP-CDS3 Program listed Laoag CDS3 Team members Honorable Ranada and The Hon. Constante Dancel, Jr. to join the CDSTeam as the team will be attending the scheduled Output presentation on the 25-26 of October 2006 perhaps in Makati City. They are the members of the Sanggunian Panlungsod appointed by the SP themselves to be included in the Team. I pray for their attendance so that they too will be able to appreciate what we are doing for our people.

AS WE OFTEN SAY, “WE ARE NOT DOING THIS FOR OURSELVES, BUT WE ARE DOING THIS TO PROVIDE BETTER LIVING CONDITIONS, FULL OF CONTENTMENT AND SUFFICIENCY FOR OUR PEOPLE AND THE GENERATIONS TO COME.

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Copyright 2006 Ilocos Times. All rights reserved.
OPINION

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