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Republic of the Philippines
City of Cebu


Mr. Chairman, members of this August Body, my brother Cebuanos. I cannot even begin to thank many of you for your prayers. Apparently, somebody up there has listened to you and decided not to do a recall.

He put me back here because I have a job to do and I will do it. I would also like to thank Vice-Mayor Mike Rama and the management team that I left behind for being up to the challenge. Our efforts in building up professionalism in this new administration is bearing fruit. For the strength of the City Hall will have to have as its backbone, its people.

Under the Spring Program, we have produced over 300 graduates this year alone. The Cebuanos would be very proud to know that we are the only local government unit in the world where we train our personnel to critize the system and to improve the system. This is not found in any other model of local government. Our own trainees, for example, were able to revise the payroll procedures of DPS casual employees. And now they're (DPS casual employees) being paid on time and other department will adopt this soon.

Improvement in management system is the key to the success of this administration. While this will affect other endeavors of the city, we also have to focus on our revenue-raising process. When we look at how well other cities are doing, its not Davao that's ahead of us. There are many other cities that are striving far ahead of us. Marikina is a city to watch out. Quezon City's collection in business taxes alone is P500 million more this year, almost 90% increase . And so, we have other models to look forward to if we are to move ahead. There has been many, many issues that I am sure many of you want to take up, from the abattoir to CCMC, to our traffic, to our peace and order. But I have decided the State of the City Address basically to address the problems of the urban poor.

I am the Mayor of all Cebuanos. This includes the urban poor and especially the urban poor because they need the government the most. As a candidate, I made many promises to the urban poor, I have kept some of them and intend to keep all of them. When I assumed office, I was faced with seemingly insurmountable problems. For instance, the previous administrations signed many agreements to buy lands, leaving me payables with more than P116 million, yet the trust fund that they left behind was less than P16 million leaving me a deficit of over a hundred million pesos.

I am glad a member of the opposition had questioned this and I hope they'll really look into this because many agreements they signed were patently illegal. Some without City Council resolutions, most signed without a certificate of availability of funds. I could have nullified these agreements. But it will not be just to them who will suffer, it's more than 1,000 urban poor beneficiaries. We have decided, but never mind. Despite the financial crisis faced by the city, we have paid some of these obligations. We intend to pay all of these obligations for the sake of the urban poor beneficiaries.

If you think this was it, you're dead wrong. As you may have read the report of the Commission on Audit, the previous administration bought 46.8 hectares of land for the so called socialized housing project. The money was mostly spent for relocation site for a disclosed urban poor. This cost the city more than P172 million. The allocation is intended for 4,092 families. But, according to COA report and I quote: "the current number of occupants are only 2,211. The targets were not attained because some of this site were not yet developed, no road right-of-way and not livable". Most of these properties should not been bought. But the previous administration bought the properties and I have no choice but to develop them. They get the credit, we get the burden, but never mind.

We have, therefore, ordered the Division for Welfare of the Urban Poor to immediately work for the development of these sites, including leasing the necessary equipment as the previous administrations left me with only one operational bulldozer. But contrary to the contention of an honorable member of the opposition, we have to buy more land. There are at least 2,000 families who managed to relocate. But most of them, we have managed its delay but warned we cannot kept on delaying these demolitions forever.

There are also many more urban poor families who are facing threats of demolition. If we stop buying the lands they occupy as suggested by an honorable member of the opposition, they would have nowhere to go and they would suffer the consequence. They get the credit, we get the burden, but never mind.

Furthermore, Cebu City has a housing backlog of around 30,000 families. Despite the opposition, as I have promised during my candidacy to buy more lands for the urban poor, on-site whenever possible, relocation whenever necessary. In doing so, we have and would continue to exercise due prudence. The beneficiaries must be qualified. The land to be purchased must be affordable to these beneficiaries, must be properly appraised, must have an honest-to-goodness feasibility study and must be approved by the Local Housing Board. The Housing Board is now composed not only for the government officials but also of representatives from NGO's and community associations.

I am proud to announce that I am in the final stage of acquiring 100 hectares of land, less than 7 kilometers from the downtown area, with road right-of-way, gently rolling terrain and relatively inexpensive. This 100 hectare land will be a new site for at least 15,000 families and, in one stroke, eliminating hopefully half our housing backlog, making Cebu City No. 1 again in terms of its concern for the urban poor. And we will do this inspite of the opposition. Of course, the urban poor will have to do its share, then they have to pay their obligations. Their repayment will continue to be set aside to a trust fund that will be used for additional site development and for additional land acquisition.

We have improved tax collections. This year, we now averaged more than P60,000.00 per month compared to the less than P20,000.00 when I assumed office last year. This 300% increase in collection is not enough. Let me, without any hesitation, announce that we will issue individual certificates of title to those who are delinquent. I will ask the City Council to pass ordinance allowing them to restructure their loans, "pay us 20% of your obligations and we will cancel the price that have been imposed; I will give you five (5) more years to pay but this time, we will charge you 10% interest per year for beneficiaries who have not been delinquent". I have also ordered the Urban Poor Division to cancel the awards of beneficiaries who have not occupied their respective lots should their lots be already deemed livable.

We are solving the other torch left me by the previous administration, namely the Condominium and the Sugbu Homes. With Sugbu Homes, we have come to agreement with the beneficiaries that they will soon begin to pay us and will soon implement site development having completed the application for an Environment Clearance. With Condominium Project, we have accepted the fact that the flagship project of the previous administration was highly overpriced, with substandard construction and without the necessary permits and licenses. And every year the city pays additional interest of around P3 million. We have decided that, in the meantime, we will charge the occupants rent that will cover the interest payments. Those who will pay will stay and units vacated will be converted into offices space. The needs of the urban poor are endless. We need to generate resources. We are coordinating with the Community Mortgage Program to acquire more lands for the urban poor. We're also asking them to refund the city the land that we have provided in through financing. We have provided the NHA and they have promised to immediately invest P100 million in Cebu City. We also coordinate very closely with Secretary Mike Defensor for the Presidential Proclamation of several lots occupied by the urban poor families.

I have also not neglected the marginalized sectors. We are very proud with the progress of the women's sector - the City Council has passed an ordinance on domestic violence, the first city in the Philippines to do so. Cebu City is the birthplace of Bantay Banay which has received much nationwide and even worldwide recognition. We have supported and we continue to support them. We have told leaders that the city is open to the faithful implementation of the budget provision of the Gender and Development.

The vendors are more problematic. Contrary to the public perception, I recognize that vending is a matter of livelihood for a great number of people. And that although sidewalk vending is per se illegal, we must tolerate them as much as possible but the vendors must realize that they also must try to minimize the inconvenience that they cause. During my candidacy, I promised the vendors that they would not be disclosed unless there are insurmountable complaints and if it is absolutely necessary to dislocate them, they would be properly consulted. I have remained faithful to this pledge even with preference to the Sto. Niño vendors, then the stalls should be not be there. If the vendors want to pay only P10.00, okay. If they do not want to pay anything. I do not care. I am open to compromise but these vendors must vacate Osmeña Boulevard as traffic congestion has become intolerable. My patience has come to an end. They should not, however, detract from the policy that I myself initiated during my first term - that for humanitarian and social reasons, we must give the vendors maximum tolerance. The vendors must, however, respect the common good and discipline their ranks so that they will be an asset rather than a liability to society.

With regard to the other marginalized sectors of society, we have and will continue to strengthen the other offices involved in social services such as employment, social welfare, health, agriculture, etc., disaster relief and we have finally completed a juvenile home and we have began the construction of new detention center, both of which are located in Kalunasan. We have worked and will continue to work with those NGO's whose services might be more efficient. We have mobilized the Local Development Council, I have scheduled a training program for their members, they have began to define specific projects and I will assure you that the Local Development Fund will be appropriated together with the Local Development Council as mandated by law.

Yes, I am the Mayor of the entire Cebu City. As such, it is my responsibility to help bring about the progress for the entire city. Our level of governance must improve, revenues must increase, delivery of services must be streamlined, traffic must improve, garbage collection, pollution reduced, etc.

We have no choice, we have to become globally competitive for our economic growth and progress. And that progress of our beloved Cebu City will redound to the benefit of everyone including the poor. But we need to give special attention for the urban poor because they need the government the most. As a candidate, I have made my promises to the urban poor, I have kept some of them, I intend to keep all of them.

I would like to dedicate this speech in memory of Councilor Ely Abellana who has served this council for so long and so well and we hope where he is today, he will guide us to make Cebu City prosperous once again.

Thank you very much.

State of the City Address (2002)
Mayor Tomas R. Osmeña