DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines – In the “City of Gentle People,” many voters remain unsure on who they will vote for, with only hours before they head to the polls.
In the local races, the campaign period was marred with mudslinging and accusations hurled by different sides.
For the mayoralty race, the main clash is between former City Mayor Ipe Remollo of the Liberal Party and incumbent Vice Mayor Woodrow Maquiling Sr. of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, although there are two independent candidates Dindo Generoso, and Kinix Ramirez also in the race.
On the local mudslinging, questions on corruption concerns were raised by some parties over the use of the city’s heavy equipment. Citizens also expressed their concern about the lack of experience of younger candidates who are running for office.
Dumaguete residents, however, hope whoever is elected can address some of the city’s major problems, which include poverty, crime, and pollution. On top of these issues, the city is still adjusting to the new Negros Island Region set-up.
First: Social inequality
In the first semester of 2015, Negros Oriental was reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority to have a 46.6% poverty rate, while Dumaguete posted a 5% poverty rate.
According to a member of Oriental Negros Children’s Advocacy Network (ONCAN), a number of street children are unaccounted for and stay in tourist-heavy areas in the city. Displaced households within the city and from neighboring cities have also flocked to Dumaguete for better job opportunities, which have increased the density of houses and informal settlers.
LP mayoral candidate Remollo said he plans to address this inequality by training women and giving them equal livelihood opportunities. He emphasized that working with children and their mothers is crucial in their development.
NPC’s Maquiling said providing jobs, investing in infrastructure and agriculture is part of his 10-point agenda.
Both candidates said they want better health and education for low-income families.
Second: Crime, peace and order
Dumaguete’s index crime rate decreased by 15.86% in late 2015, but it was also during that time when there was public outcry against shooting incidents in the city. Some of these were instances of motorcycle riding-in-tandems and drug-related crimes. Drug raids by PDEA were also frequent.
In December 2015, a foreigner died due to a mauling incident outside a bar in the downtown area. Recently, a 3-year-old was raped and killed, and then stuffed inside a cabinet in the suspect’s house.
Cases of human trafficking intercepted at the port and in other places around the city are still apparent. The Negros Oriental Provincial Police Office reported that damage to property and traffic-related crimes contribute to around 38% of the total crime rate.
All the candidates have promised to keep peace and order in mind. Maquiling has also proposed a toll-free hotline, patterned after 911 in America, while Remollo said that more sports programs for the youth will help counter the spread of drugs. (READ: Two Dumaguete City archers take home gold, silver medals)
Third: Heritage, environment, and natural esources
Dumaguete is the gateway to Negros Oriental’s natural resources. Tourists enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and easy access to beaches. But the city and surrounding towns are constantly threatened by pollution and the effects of climate change. (READ: Climate activists take climate change to Dumaguete’s streets)
Garbage from the dumpsite in Candau-ay has polluted the Banica River. The city is in need of a new landfill after the local dumpsite burned and caused a state of calamity in 5 barangays due to toxic smoke emission.
When Typhoon Pablo hit the city, deforestation in watershed areas caused flashfloods to destory some households along the Banica river.
In the streets, the lack of public garbage cans means littering is a persistent problem. The higher number of vehicles in the downtown area has also generated civic concern regarding noise and air pollution.
Maquiling said the strict implementation of existing environmental ordinances, the installation of trash bins, and increasing the shifts of street cleaners will address these concerns.
Remollo said preserving Dumaguete’s culture and heritage is a priority.
Dumaguete is 5th in the Forbes’ list of “The 7 Best Cities to Retire Around The World.” Whoever wins on May 9 will face a full plate of challenges to keep Dumaguete at the top of that list.
Will these three issues be on top of the new elective official’s list? Will these issues be the main consideration of Dumaguetenos in voting their next leaders?
In a few hours, the election results will tell. – Rappler.com
Therene Quijano is a Rappler Ambassador.
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