In clearing the space for the new administration, there are two aspects of the challenges we have to face. I call them challenges because we must allow ourselves the hope that our problems today can indeed be solved. They can be solved with clear-eyed vision, practical steps, and diligence. There are the long-term goals with which the short-term steps are being coordinated.
The Office of the newly elected Mayor, Edgardo C. Labella, wishes to share with fellow Cebuanos the immediate tasks of the new administration has set for itself.
Guiding these immediate steps is the demand for sustainability. We must make our programs of action sustainable. Just yesterday, a wise man in the city council pointed out that one bad habit in our country is that when the folks in government positions disappear, the system already in place also disappears. It should be the other way around: The systems managing government functionaries to serve ordinary people better.
Making governance sustainable is for the long term. That is our gold horizon. But how do we get there? In the next hundred days, and well before 2019 disappears, we have time yet to analyze and spell out how we can get on track toward sustainability. And we need to give ourselves that time if we want our journey toward the gold horizon to include in the dialogue and decision-making not just city officials but also the voices of ordinary people.
We must, however, begin our short-term tasks with a clear-eyed sense of what the city needs right now. We need to deliver those needs with transparency and efficiency. Meeting these needs in the short term is our testing ground for the things we can build towards sustainability.
Realistically, what can be done immediately within the next six months? Sa akong pagpangutana, manghangyo pod unta ko: I strongly urged officials and City Hall personnel to be hard as a rock in adopting the principle of excellence in results-oriented action. Excellence not in performance, but in working toward solutions to problems at ground level, in accomplishing things that people can actually experience. I propose ten priorities.
Because the rainy season is now upon us, floods should be foremost on our agenda. We need to work together with Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). At the same time, we need work closely with the neighboring cities of Mandaue and Talisay, to undertake the massive dredging of our waterways.
Because our waterways cut through the entire urban fabric of Mega Cebu, the localized dredging cannot prevent the blockage of water within our city. The water must be given tributaries to flow out. That is why I call on their barangay and municipal officials to cooperate in this immediate goal to dredge the water channels of Mega Cebu.
2. The business landscape
The next in our priority has to do with economic flow. If we suffer rain water blockage, our business community today unfortunately is also suffering blockage of another kind. This problem is with reference to the frustrating process of seeking the approval of building and business permits in the city
In my view, the role of regulatory institutions is primarily to check: Is this business legal or not? Yes, we have to be vigilant in subjecting businesses to regulatory requirements. Apan nganong lisud-lisuron man ang proseso sa piece-meal application of permits? According to our laws, the regulatory requirements must be met within 15 maximum days.
New legislation must be passed to streamline this process so that the government does not block the flow of good business in our city. Mandaue and Talisay have already taken the lead in setting up digital systems. We should begin allowing the electronic submission of applications. In the case of submissions in hard copy, there should be schedule for businesses to drop by the relevant offices at designated times, to get clear steps in meeting the requirements, and to set a punctual timeline for their processing.
In the current check list of requirements, there is a very frustrating section with that vague requirement called “Others.” That frustrating section can easily block the process and artificially, the applicant for a permit now has to grease it up. That form of corruption is going to be anathema in this new administration.
To cite more examples of what can be done through legislation: The Office of Building Official must hold fast to the timeline of 45 calendar days for processing the building permit with complete and accurate requirements. Businesses should be given a cycle of two years for renewing their permits.
There must be a long-term solution to our traffic woes. The immediate step, however, is to put up a new traffic system. Could the council please allocate a budget for this need? New traffic lights are an urgent need. We also need to put in place a new digital traffic system, and---this is very important—to train our people to ensure the smooth operation of this new system.
Yesterday morning, it broke my heart to see piles of trash along our streets. I saw a woman walking to the corner, who was already dressed for work. She was covering her mouth and carefully walking around the garbage. And so that same morning, a meeting which included the head of the Department Public Services already made the jumpstart for cleaning up the streets using the city’s equipment.
But I appeal to the council to pass a supplemental budget to address the trash problem. We do not need to buy more equipment. Promptly we must set up a transparent bidding for the right people to whom we can outsource the collection and disposal of garbage.
5. Full Payment of the SRP Loan
The budget is constantly on our minds. And the public must be impatient to know if we possess the resources for this. The immediate answer is Yes—of course, we do. We even have the funds to complete, as soon as possible, the payment of the loan for the SRP.
It may assure the council to recall that apart from having the funds, we have already secured clearance from the monetary board of the Central Bank. We have ample space to exercise results-oriented action once the city is debt-free and liquid. We can begin to direct funds, for example, to our important projects—especially projects related to mitigating the suffering of the poor in our city.
6. Cebu City Medical Center
The next three items in our list of short-term solutions pertain the questions of suffering. The completion of the Cebu City Medical Center is real cause for concern. When we went there recently on a surprise visit, it’s a bit of a shocker to find the place still messed up. There is a temporary space for the medical center in the fire department station, but it has horrific sanitary issues. The emergency unit has no proper lighting—imagine a trauma doctor unable to see a bleeding wound. What a tragedy.
Our city has already burned through a billion pesos to purchase steel for its construction. But its available units are still far from serviceable. An urgent task then is to hold a special audit. The city engineer must make an assessment and submit a report on the causes of the delay.
While that audit is ongoing, we should pass an initial legislation intervention, so that the unceasing construction of the hospital can continue. We should have functional units as soon as possible. The sooner the hospital can start its operations, the sooner the Office of the President can direct the funds of the Malasakit program to our city through the Cebu City Medical Center.
7. Education: Uniforms and Compulsory feeding
We need to allocate funds for alleviating poverty in our public schools. President Rodgrigo Duterte recently signed a law that makes breakfast feeding compulsory among public school children. It is a extremely useful law.
In education, there is a well-known Latin phrase, Mens sana in corpore sano. It means “a healthy mind in a healthy body,” and it is often used to encourage physical exercise. But how can poor children exercise their bodies and minds, if they do not have good nutrition for their brain development?
The compulsory feeding law is a direct answer to this problem. If we want to feed and shape our children’s minds, we must also nourish and strengthen their bodies. And in the spirit of caring for their bodies, I urge the council also to set a budget that provides our students free uniforms including shoes, and free school supplies like notebooks and pens.
8. Education: Cebu City College
There is some embarrassment in knowing that our neighbors, even Lapu-Lapu, all have city colleges. Our city is Mega Cebu’s urban core, but we have none. Fellow officials, we must promptly begin work on building that educational institution. Of course, this is initially a budget concern. But the foundations for the Cebu City College are already there. During the conversations with the Commissioner on Higher Education, he has already promised to help us set it up.
9. Peace and Order
This administration must reaffirm its strong support of the police. In that direction, we need to allocate a budget for the renovation of the Police Stations in Carbon and Pardo.
But there are other key nodes in our city where the police should be visible. Although partnership with the private sector in this renovation project is certainly welcome, it is wholly apt for the city to direct the necessary resources for it.
The goal here is to evoke respect for our laws, to project the dignity of the law not just among our people but also among the lawmen themselves. On a practical level, we also need good police stations so that our lawmen can operate in efficient work spaces.
Related to the matter of efficiency, we should also establish a technologically advanced alarm system to facilitate quick response by the police and other agencies when there is a calamity or security threat. The city needs what security experts call a unified communication and alert response system. This new technology allows to generate simultaneous notifications and to act swiftly and simultaneously in responding to an emergency.
10. Completion of Carbon Market Phase 2
Finally, I wish to end this to-do list, this set of immediate steps in results-oriented action, with the call to finish Phase 2 of Carbon Market. Earlier we talked about ease in doing business in Cebu. But the economic flows also occur at the level of smaller entrepreneurship. Palihog ayaw intawon og lisud-lisura ang mga naninda og namalit sa Carbon.
Let’s jumpstart this project and minimize the interference of the economic activities in Carbon, a node of our city’s get-go attitude, a landmark whose importance we have long ignored.
We have much to do, ladies and gentlemen. I won’t delay any further by prolonging my talk. You have always heard me say: In matters of style, we can be flexible, but in matters of substance and principle, we should be as hard as a rock. Karon na ang atong higayon to practice what we preach.
Best of luck to all of us, and may the hand of God always move through us, so that we can do our best with the gift of time we have been given.