|State of the City Address 2015|
On the 76th Foundation Day of Quezon City, Mayor Herbert M. Bautista delivered his State of the City Address (SOCA). It was his sixth and the last SOCA of his second term. Mayor Bautista has indicated that he will seek another term, which will be his third and last term as mayor.
He has introduced several determined but commonsense measures to free idle assets or pending obligations into productive revenue contributors to the city. Total revenue gross collections for the Quezon City Government reached Php 15.5 billion in 2014. For the first nine months of this year, gross collections have already reached Php 14.63 billion, which already covers the 2015 budget target of Php 14.46 billion.
He said, “This Administration is generating hundreds of millions of pesos in new funds, simply by solving old problems, penalizing idle properties, putting city assets to work, and rationalizing some provisions in the Quezon City Revenue Code so that businesses are more equitably taxed.”
Determined negotiations on the part of the city government finally solved a 33-year old settled account from the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP). In 1982, the LGU placed Php 30 million in trust with LBP, which the bank lent to Ramawil Properties without any enforceable collateral.
The security used by RAMAWIL were falsified land titles. In 1981, LBP filed a case against Ramawil, and LBP won and obtained the Ramawil properties. However, the city government had not been able to collect against LBP, until this year when a compromise agreement was finally signed between the LGU and LBP, with the approval of Regional Trial Court Judge Aurora Hernandez-Calledo. With this agreement, the city government gets back the Php 30 million and also Php 142.8 million in interest earnings, which represents fresh money for development projects.
The mayor has also organized a Real Property Assessment Team to evaluate properties that have been forfeited in favor of the city government, as a result of auction. These are an estimated Php 2.8 billion worth of assets, whose titles have not yet been transferred to the city government for at least 13 years now. He has ordered that properties with economic value and those that can be used for health and educational facilities be priorities for processing. It will be useful for the expansion of the public school buildings which are very much needed for the K+12 program, as well as for the construction of more health centers. The economically viable properties may be considered as property assets for the new corporation managed by the LGU, the Quezon City Development Authority.
He has pushed for strategic partnerships with the National Housing Authority, the Road Board and the Department of Public Order and Safety, to expand the city’s capacity to create solutions for several problems. The city government’s partnership with the NHA has enabled the LGU to expand its housing stock by 21,707 dwelling units, and this has made possible the swifter movement of families out of danger areas in waterways and road-right-of-ways, into NHA Resettlement Sites in Bulacan and Rodriguez, Rizal.
The LGU’s partnership with the Road Board on the streetlighting program has expanded its capacity to install more low-carbon LED lights along the city’s thoroughfares by 1,795 lamp posts, particularly those along major roads, enabling the LGU to focus on other city streets with 4,453 led-lighted lampposts covering 160,515 sq km of streets. The shift to LED streetlights is expected to reduce electricity expenses by Php 1.71 M a month for the LGU.
The LGU’s active collaboration with the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Metro Manila Development Authority has led to more focused National Government – Local Government interconnections that enable the national government to build on city projects and vice versa, particularly in clearing more road right of ways of obstructions, creating more connections to city roads, and expanding the capability of the city’s flood control programs. One major area of collaboration is barangay Apolonio Samson, a place that is being rehabilitated as a better organized socialized housing site. The area is severely flood-prone, and the solution agreed upon by the LGU and the DPWH is to build a 2-hectare retardation pond that will be 5-meters deep. The pond will be a Php 700 million project of the DPWH, while the LGU will take care of the housing and road network component. The pond will solve flooding in surrounding areas as well up to Araneta Avenue and Damar Village.
The mayor has assured sustainability of the city’s socialized housing program, which is a high capital investments. The LGU has todate raised a housing fund of Php 785 million, generated from collections of the Socialized Housing Tax and the Idle Land Tax since 2011. The constitutionality of the city’s imposition of the Socialized Housing Tax was upheld recently by the Supreme Court. The dedicated housing fund is replenished continuously through payback mechanisms devised by the LGU, in coordination with the Pag-Ibig Fund and the Social Housing Finance Corporation.
Preparing for the K+12 program is another major endeavor. Quezon City has 36,732 public school students entering Grade 11, not to mention the number of kids entering public kindergarten. To accommodate all of them, the city needs as many as 811 additional classrooms. No other city in the Philippines has a problem of this magnitude.
Through an executive order, the Mayor organized a multi-stakeholder technical working group, not only to discern problems but to recommend solutions to infrastructure needs, teacher capacities and training needs, parents’ understanding of the program and the crafting of a value-adding vocational track that could build a good future for high school graduates. Top public school educators crafted a road map to manage the transition, through the QC SEED program or Sustainable Education Enhancement and Development Program.
New school construction has thus far produced 117 new classrooms, with one more school building to be constructed this year. Classroom needs are also being addressed by partnerships with private schools that have the space to accommodate our public school students, and provide recompense through a voucher system. The LGU has targeted 21,037 students to be accommodated by these schools. School Fairs organized in all 6 Districts enable the city’s students and teachers to gain a better familiarity of their counterparts.
Mayor Bautista has also demanded forward-looking vision in crafting the vocational track. He is determined to provide high-value careers even for those without college degrees. Korphil, the LGU-managed advanced training center, trained teachers on an animation curriculum, and 100% of them passed.
Last August 2015, the LGU signed an agreement with Magna Anima Education System, a subsidiary of ABS-CBN, for the development of special programs for senior high school students in visual, design and performing arts, media arts, sports and maritime studies.