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LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – Eight years ago, Legazpi City, was like a shattered pot, crushed by Super Typhoon Reming that killed 1,500 people and destroyed multi-billion-peso private and government infrastructure, and agricultural crops.
The city seemed like a wasteland than a bustling metropolis in the Bicol region. The horrific natural disaster, however, did not hamper Legazpi City, under Mayor Noel Rosal, from rising from the rubble.
For overcoming the catastrophic impact of natural disasters, Legazpi City has been nominated for the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2016.
The Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize is a biennial award that “seeks to recognize cities and their key leaders and organizations for displaying foresight, good governance and innovation in tackling the many urban challenges faced, to bring about social, economic and environmental benefits in a holistic way to their communities,” according to the official website of the Prize.
Based on the letter sent to Rosal by the Embassy of the Republic of Singapore, the nomination of Legazpi City was based on its outstanding achievements and contributions to the creation of liveable, vibrant, and sustainable urban communities around the world.
The city’s nomination surprised city officials after the prize-giving body noted the competitiveness of Legazpi City.
“We’re surprised but happy for being nominated for the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2016. This is an honor and a challenge for us to work even more and to always rise up amid the challenge of extreme climate due to climate change for us to be the most liveable city in the Philippines,” Rosal said.
Typhoon Milenyo (international name: Xangsane) first hit the Eastern Samar region on September 30, 2006, then gained strength as it pummelled the Bicol region.
On November 30, 2006, Super Typhoon Reming (international name: Durian) walloped the country. Legazpi City sustained a devastating hit, with one village nearly wiped out by rampaging volcanic debris from Mayon volcano, which had erupted that same year.
A mass exodus took place then – the city seemed lifeless – but local officials and businessmen worked together to recover from the disaster.
The city government led by Rosal partnered with the people of Legazpi and the private sector, specifically with Bicolano business tycoon Elizaldy S. Co in picking up the pieces to regain the city’s glory.
Legazpi City, center of trade and commerce in Bicol, became the fastest booming city in the country despite the Mayon eruption, and Typhoons Milenyo and Reming.
“After Super Typhoon Reming, Legazpi’s comparative business tax posted at P263,522,742.16 in 2013 local income (local taxes). If Legazpi is booming before, after Reming we rise back even better,” Rosal said.
Disaster not a hindrance
Rosal said that disaster should not be a hindrance for development.
“We have to think global but act local to compete with other big cities of the county through good governance by giving back to the people your taxes religiously such us establishment of hospital, farm to market roads, and school for education of our children. We’re able to send back to school 60% of dropped out students 7 years ago,” the mayor said.
To prove that the city government is taking care of poor people, Rosal said that in 2013, at least 23,717 poor families have Philhealth cards, the highest enrolment and contribution in Bicol.
The city government is constructing the P80-million Legazpi City Hospital for the poor to decongest the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital. The city government also built and runs the Legazpi City High School intended for talented but poor students.
Several projects are also lined up for the development of Legazpi: the P14.63 million multi-purpose hall that would accommodate 3,000 people in times of calamity, the P140-million 4-lane Yawa bridge, the P200-million mega highway, the P8-million core shelter program in Dapdap, and the P10-million school classrooms for upland national high school.
The city government is also fasttracking the implementation of the P500-million Legazpi City Urban Drainage project, a priority project under the Aquino administration to address the perennial flooding problem during rainy seasons.
The city has also beeing transformed into a “City of Fun and Adventure” which has seen an influx of investments and tourism-related developments.
Legazpi City is giving big number of tourists to Albay province. We’re hosting big events and we cannot deny the fact that Legazpi contributed a phenomenon to the development of Albay,” Rosal said.
He said this will be complemented with the operation of the Bicol International Airport in two years.
A recent Asian Institute of Management (AIM) study disclosed that Legazpi will be the next hub after Davao and Cebu, and is ranked fifth among fast-rising cities in the country in terms of infrastructure development, business growth, and peace and order.
The city has also convention hub. In 2014, the city government hosted at least 14 big national conventions, and is in the list of 10 Next Wave Cities of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP).
Three malls are being constructed this year in Legazpi, including LCC Mall, a venture between Ayala Land Inc and LCC group of companies. – Rappler.com