MANILA, Philippines – First-term Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on Monday, October 7, cited unfinished business she inherited, challenges she faced, and and plans for more services during her first 100 days as mayor.
In her State of the City Address, she said the city government had dealt so far with road clearing operations, African swine fever, and the pressure to uphold the promises she made when she was sworn in on June 30.
She let the numbers speak for themselves.
Belmonte said the city government went "above and beyond" the mandate of the Department of the Interior and Local Government to clear national, primary, and secondary roads, and Mabuhay lanes. To further decongest traffic, the Quezon City government added 20 to 30 alternative roads – dubbed QC Bayanihan sa Lansangan Road Networks after Task Force Bayanihan sa Lansangan.
The task force coordinated multiple departments of the city government as well as the city's 142 barangays.
She added that vendors displaced by the clearing operations were encouraged to continue their vending inside public markets or in alternative vending sites that do not obstruct roads. The relocation of displaced vendors included their profiling, registration, and handing out of official IDs.
Belmonte said the number of registered vendors rose from 950 when they took over to 3,200 at present.
"Sa pamamagitan nito, hindi na sila muling mapgsasamantalahan at pagkakakitaan ng mga sindikato o protektor, at magiging legal na silang mga manininda sa mga government-identified vending sites," she said.
(This way, they will no longer be taken advantage of by syndicates, and they will be legal vendors in government-identified vending sites.)
African swine fever
Following the outbreak of African swine fever (ASF) in 3 Quezon City barangays, Belmonte urged illegal hog raisers to surrender their pigs for culling and receive P3,000 per head.
So far, 4,466 pigs from ASF-infected areas have been culled, and more than P13 million in financial assistance has been provided to affected hog raisers.
While Belmonte earlier announced an allocation of P10 million for financial assistance to be provided to backyard hog raisers, she said the city administrator found a way to raise the budget to P15 million.
As mayor, it was clear where Belmonte's priorities lie: better and quicker facilitation of social services.
Financial assistance for fire victims
Belmonte said 4,600 families from 44 fire incidents have been given financial aid amounting to around P6.5 million, clearing the backlog incurred from November 2018.
Apart from this, an ordinance has been filed that will raise financial assistance for fire victims to to P10,000, from P2,000, which Belmonte said had not been changed for 20 years.
Belmonte said burial assistance provided to citizens will be raised from the original amount of P10,000 to a full package of P25,000.
She added that the death benefit assistance worth P5,000 extended to family members of deceased senior citizens would be distributed within the month, clearing the backlog originating from 2017.
Senior citizen assistance
Aside from being expedited, the processing of over 6,500 indigent social pension applications to receive aid from the Department of Social Welfare and Development will soon be made available at barangays. This will allow applicants to avoid the inconvenience of going to and lining up at City Hall.
Informal settler families
Some 215,000 informal settler families reside in Quezon City, and Belmonte aims to address this by implementing a new shelter plan. The city government will purchase land where a new township will be built.
This initiative, modeled after Singapore, will include the construction of mid- to high-rise buildings with various payment options for the units.
Belmonte said 429 beneficiaries had been awarded titles under the local government's direct sale program and community mortgage program, with more to be awarded in the following months.
"Marami sa kanila ang mga tumanda na kahihintay sa titulo ng kanilang mga bahay, kaya naman atin po itong ginawan ng agarang aksiyon," Belmonte said. (A lot of them have grown old waiting for the titles to their land, so we prioritized this.)
From P550,000, Belmonte proposed to increase the budget for medicines to P2 billion in 2020.
"We pray that the city council supports this increase when they review our proposed health budget," she said.
Thirty-two permanent positions will also be opened for doctors in local government health facilities.
Medical assistance will be raised from P3,000 to P5,000.
Peace and order
Belmonte said there had been a drop of 17% in index crimes compared to this time in 2018, based on data from the Philippine National Police.
She stated that the congestion rate of the female dormitory at Camp Karingal had been brought down from 1,243% to 498%. There are now beds and showers in each cell, and more space to exercise.
Over 96 CCTV cameras have been restored to monitor key junctions and thoroughfares in the city. The remaining 148 city-owned CCTV cameras will be restored by the end of October.
Ease of doing business
Belmonte cited that while only 11,000 environmental clearances were handed out from January to June 2019, 15,000 were issued in the 3-month period of July to September 2019.
She added that in 2018, 30% of all business permits issued were not in allowable zones and did not have locational clearances.
The number of approved clearances per day rose from 35 in January to June to 150 since July.
"Occupational permits can now be released as quickly as 3 minutes and, in keeping with our mandate of speedy services, occupational permits can be processed onsite starting January of next year for businesses with 300 employees or more," Belmonte added.
Belmonte acknowledged the continuous decloggin of the city's sewerage systems and the dredging of waterways conducted by the Engineering Department.
Within 100 days, Belmonte said, 320 cubic meteres of trash and dirt were removed from the city's rivers.
"We are happy to report that, since our efforts started, the reports of flooding have dramatically gone down," she said.
Belmonte cited 7 priority infrastructure projects: a multi-purpose hall in Barangay Sto Domingo, the Damayang Lagi barangay hall, and the redevelopment of 4 public markets.
The Damayang Lagi barangay hall was earlier demolished as part of the mandated road clearing operations.
The retrofitting and renovation of the Quezon City General Hospital will also be conducted, along with the inclusion of a new and improved dialysis center.
Belmonte stressed the importance of increased representation in order to achieve improved services through good governance. She said people's participation will be made more vibrant by the increased number of civil society organizations (CSOs).
"From just over 381 accredited CSOs in 2001, when my father began his first term, we now have more than 1,600 civil society organizations representing many more sectors, including solo parents and [LGBTQIA+]. Tunay na isinasakatuparan natin ang ating adhikain na kasama ang lahat sa pag-unlad," she said. (We working towards realizing our goal of including everyone towards progress.)
Quezon City will be celebrating its 80th year in October. – Rappler.com
Loreben Tuquero is a researcher-writer for Rappler. Before transferring to Rappler's Research team, she covered transportation, Quezon City, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government as a reporter. She graduated with a communication degree from the Ateneo de Manila University.