THE 2017 ANNUAL STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
Good afternoon. Today, I have the privilege and the duty to stand before my fellow Cebuanos to let them know how we stand as a city as we move on to the second half of 2017. I will talk about where we are today, where we came from, and what direction we are going to take. We will discuss the problems we face and how we’re going to fix them.
The two most pressing concerns are garbage and traffic. So let’s start there.
I understand that garbage collection is one of the biggest issues for most Cebuanos. I would like to assure you that your government is doing the best it can with what it has. However, at the moment, we do not have much to work with. Please allow me to explain.
There are two major capabilities to consider when discussing garbage: collection and disposal. At the moment, we are short on both. In regards to collection, we are severely lacking in trucks. The previous mayor purchased P175 million worth of Chinese garbage trucks and now only 18 out of 52 are in running condition. All are faulty and many are beyond repair. We also have P71 million worth of Chinese trucks and heavy equipment, delivered but not paid for. The purchases are dubious and we are not paying. The unused equipment will be returned and we will acquire better equipment with the money saved.
Some P40 million worth of trucks also came from a supplier who is the son of Peter Lim. Most are not running even though many are recent requisitions. Because of this, we also refused delivery of another 8 trucks.
In addition, in 2012 Ryan Go of the Sulpicio Group sold us 5 Isuzu trucks. In 2013, city engineers reported that the engines are not Isuzu but in fact Chinese-made. These transactions made during the previous administration are a joke and we are the punchline. Legal action will be taken.
In regards to disposal, the city made a dubious arrangement with Asian Energy for garbage hauling that no less than the Commission on Audit has declared as questionable because of lack of any contract. Millions were spent unaccounted for. This is why I moved to use the landfill in Inayawan after I took office: the city saved P400,000 per day. Unfortunately, using our landfill is no longer an option.
REFORM IN GARBAGE COLLECTION:
So those are our problems. What do we do to solve them?
For collection, instead of buying new trucks, we will be switching to leasing garbage trucks, including the driver. This will eliminate plenty of corruption in the purchase, storage and utilization of spare parts, as well as in the pilferage of fuel. Ninety percent of the paperwork will disappear and there will be no time lost in the bidding, purchasing, documenting and conducting the inventory of spare parts. By leasing instead of buying, we will be able to do more while spending less.
With the current system, we are spending too much time and money for the maintenance of our garbage trucks. We have lousy trucks and lousy maintenance. The red tape of government regulations forces us to have to wait for most spare parts to be actually needed before they can be ordered, resulting in a truck and driver spending months doing nothing. With this new system, we will bid out the entire service package so that the only thing that has to be audited is whether the trucks are doing their job or not. Everything becomes the bidder’s problem, no excuses. We will not even need a parking area for the trucks. The leased trucks will report directly to the barangays. Most importantly, your government will become more streamlined, leaving less places for corruption to hide, which ensures your taxes are spent as efficiently and effectively as possible.
For the areas that trucks cannot access, we also have a new experimental program that is working very well: Basura Mo, Sardinas Ko. With this program, garbage collection is done by the residents themselves in exchange for cans of sardines. This motivates people to collect their garbage instead of throwing it wherever they please. In the areas where this program is in effect, like Lahug, Cogon Pardo, and Mambaling. daily garbage collection volume has gone up and is continuing to rise. It is such a revolutionary program that it has received national attention. The Philippine Inquirer covered it last month and GMA is following our people in the field to tape them as we speak.
It is so successful that even the garbage clogging our drainage isslowly disappearing. Because of this, we are also saving millions in pesos to clean our drainage.
One final plus factor is that our sardinas for garbage program is also a source of livelihood for our poorest of the poor. Some neighborhoods are even reporting that their garbage is being stolen so it can be exchanged for sardines. Imagine your garbage actually disappearing instead of you having to wait for its collection. Who would have thought that was possible?
At the moment, our budget only allows us to implement this program in a few barangays but as soon as we can afford it, this program will be expanded to all areas where it would be effective.
For disposal, we have both a short and long-term solution. For the short-term, now that our landfill in Inawayan has been closed by the national government, we have to pay hauling fees for all our garbage collection. I assure my fellow Cebuanos that we will do this legally and in as transparent a manner as possible.
It is highly suspect that a lot of money was made under the table with the old arrangement with Asian Energy, which is why I suspect Mr. Rama’s allies in the council keep pushing so hard for its return and oppose another cost-saving landfill in Binaliw. I will not allow anything COA holds anomalous to happen.
WASTE TO ENERGY:
We also have a long-term solution in regards to garbage disposal, and that is waste-to-energy. I am proud to announce that Cebu City just received a P40 million grant from the Asian Development Bank to study the best way of implementing this program. The grant will assure that we will make the best possible technical decisions. This is truly something I look forward to. Done right, Cebu City will not only no longer need a landfill, we will have the capability to reduce and even eventually eliminate our existing landfills, all while producing electricity. The emissions of a modern waste-to-energy plant are so low that Tokyo has multiple plants in the middle of their city, including one less than 3km from the Japanese Imperial Palace. As an added bonus, the only solid byproduct left by a waste-to-energy plant is slag that is used to make bricks to fix our roads.
Which brings us to the other big issue for our city: traffic. There are three main elements I would like to discuss with you today, namely, enforcement, mass transportation, and infrastructure.
Our enforcement has ramped up considerably. I am proud to announce that the number of CITOM officers manning the streets has gone up and continues to go up as new personnel are trained. Not only that, our collections for traffic violations have increased. From January to June 2017, we collected P41 million in fines vs. P22.7 million over the same period last year. I would like to give special mention to Task Force Alpha for doing an extraordinary job and for all the time they volunteer in service of our city. They are a fine example of community service.
Increasing the number of traffic enforcers is just step one to improving our enforcement. The next step is to give them some real teeth so they can enforce the law even better. There is an ordinance waiting to be passed in the council that will give our enforcers the authority to confiscate driver’s licenses. When this happens, people who break the law are really going to regret it. This ordinance has been stalled in the previously Team Rama dominated council for almost a year. With our new majority in the council, we can now pursue our agenda of reform and you will see the difference.
BRT AND LRT:
Regarding mass transportation, there is now a move to block our BRT. This is being orchestrated by no less than a Presidential Assistant who thinks he was appointed mayor and who enjoys driving to Cebu Country Club with a siren and more police escorts than the President himself.
I do not object to the BRT plus LRT. I have already shown the public how we plan to integrate both. What I am opposed to is the threat of canceling the BRT for the sale of political grandstanding.
I’ve studied the BRT since the 1990’s. I can talk about it for 4 hours. I have written extensively about it on my Facebook, so instead of repeating what you can read there, I will simply mention this: while the engineering design for the BRT is already complete and NEDAfinds the BRT project so feasible that they increased its budget from 10B to 17B, there is still no approved LRT project. I would also like to remind Mr. Dino that the President who he is the assistant to approveda BRT project for Manila last year. So until DOTr, NEDA, and the Anti-Competition Commission actually approve an LRT system for Cebu, the LRT will continue to be solely a product of Michael Dino’s politicking.
President Duterte approved the EDSA BRT on September 14, 2016. Dino said the BRT is anti-poor. He is insulting the very administration he represents, and the President he is supposed to be the "assistant" to. His stance against the BRT is also an insult to the World Bank and the French Government who spent more than a million dollars studying the BRT and deeming it worthy. Dino, an undersecretary, is also insulting the National Economic Development Authority that consists of the DBM secretary, DTI secretary, Finance Secretary, Central Bank Governor, and the NEDA chair, who is none other than President Duterte himself.
So who are his experts compared to them? Where is his mandate?
If Mr. Dino thinks he can do a better job attending to Cebu’s needs, he has the right to run for mayor of Cebu City in 2019 and let the Cebuanos decide. Until then, he can appoint himself mayor of SM City Cebu because in openly defending SM on their tax evasion issues it’s becoming increasingly suspect who he really works for.
There are two types of people in government: builders and destroyers. My job is to build. Mr. Dino has made it his job is to destroy. No matter, I have dealt with people like him before. It was the same with Gwen Garcia and Sonny Osmeña when they tried to stop the building of the SRP. It was the same with Joel Garganera when he declared the SRP illegal and swore to resign as soon as the first square meter was sold.
It was the same with Michael Rama who blocked over a billion pesos in infrastructure projects whose funding I fought for as congressman because his friends didn’t like flyovers. Rama insisted on widening intersections. But there was no approved project for that, and projects take forever to get national approval. So we ended up with no flyovers and no widened intersections. We ended up with nothing. Freddie Aguilar should write a song about it so Rama can sing it.
A cancelled BRT will result in the same thing. No BRT and no LRT either for a very long time. We won’t let that happen so we won’t have to write a song.
Regarding infrastructure, that billion pesos in projects is finally going to be implemented. You can see one of these projects as the underpass being constructed in N. Bacalso.
Please allow me to apologize in advance. During the construction of these projects traffic will be affected, but just like getting treatment for cancer, things will get worse before they get better. But they will get better. I ask for your patience, and I promise you will see the difference in the end.
As for the repair of our existing roads, the funding for those has to come out of our local budget, unlike these major projects that were funded at the national level years ago. Our city is still recovering from the 6B peso deficit left by the previous mayor, but now that we have council majority I promise you we will find the money.
Which brings us to the subject of taxes. Our city dies without taxes. They are the only way we can afford to collect the garbage, fix the roads, and support the police. This is why tax collection is so important to me and this is why I will not tolerate a family of billionaires who think they can pay 35 pesos for a whole year. I will fight. They did not elect me, you did. And you did not elect a coward.
Even now, I am proud to report that our tax collection has increased. During the previous administration’s time, the BDO branch in Jones declared a taxable income of only 7,000 pesos for the whole year. This year, the same branch declared an income of 2.3 million pesos. Many other businesses have also had the same “change of heart.” Significant improvement, don't you think?
If you cheat our city, we will kick your ass.
Another significant improvement I am happy to report is our status on illegal drugs. During my first 30 days in office, we neutralized 9 out of the top 10 local drug dealers in our city. Due in no small part to CCPO chiefs Benjie Santos and Joel Doria, PDEA-7 RD Yogi Ruiz, and all our law enforcement agencies, over 20,000 grams of shabu, valued at over 240 million pesos, was taken off the streets. Numerous high-profile operations were conducted. From July 2016 to June 28, 2017 our police have conducted 2,535 anti-drug operations resulting in 3,283 suspects arrested with 4,663 criminal charges filed.
Jaguar is dead. Yawa is dead. Michael Rama’s political career is dead.
The counting of the initial 20% for Mr. Rama’s election protest is complete. My lawyer has informed me that he has a net gain of 50 votes, or less than 1% of the 7,000 needed for the protest to continue. That also leaves him with 33,986 votes remaining to get a tie. Will he make it? I will consider taking a friendly bet. Maybe he can use the 900 million pesos he said he raised for the CCMC because to this day no one can find it.
Where is the money? During his term, Mr. Rama spent one month in America conducting fund-raising activities. Despite the claims of Councilor Pesquera, there are no records of any pledges being remitted to the city, no proof of even a one dollar donation. What more P900 million? If Mr. Rama received any cash donations, the Treasurer’s Office should have issued official receipts. Show the official receipts please, Ms. Pesquera.
Eventually, we will file a complaint with the Ombudsman as we cannot trace any pledge or amount of the 900M raised for CCMC. But first, we will focus on the more important matter of actually building the CCMC.
I am proud to let you know that the first phase of the CCMC passed 50% completion last February and that five of its 10 floors will be functional as early as this December. We are currently at 70%, and after structural integrity requirements are satisfied I have instructed our engineers to focus on the finishing of the first five floors so the Cebuanos can use half of the hospital sooner rather than all of it later.
I am also proud to report that for the first time in 6 years, the Commission on Audit has not granted the City of Cebu an adverse financial rating, the lowest and worst rating a local government unit can get. We still have the previous year’s 6B peso deficit to overcome, but we are slowly but surely climbing out of our current financial mess. It will take time, but it will happen.
The fastest way of making it happen is through the SRP. I would like to thank the new majority and even some of the minority for allowing me to sell 3 ha. of the SRP.
The SRP is a mango tree. It took 20 years to grow. Like a mango tree, we should not chop it down to sell it for wood. To do so would sacrifice the fruits it would bear for our children in the future.
Selling our land is not something I really wantto do, but because of the past years’ cumulative deficit it is a necessity for our basic services and for our city’s survival. And since we have to do this, we are going to do this the right way, through a proper bidding and through an ordinance as required by law.
The 3 ha. of the SRP is in an equally desirable spot in comparison to the 40 ha. sold by the previous administration, but we will sell it for 3x the price because that’s what it’s worth. We will take our 40 ha. back, because not only was it practically given away, it was given away via an anomalous bidding that only had one bidder. This is land that was meant to let future generations of Cebuanos go to college for free for the next 20 years.
We will get our children’s mango tree back.
SRP CALL CENTER CITY:
40 ha. of the SRP will be tied up in litigation, and until then, the City Scholars program cannot be upgraded, but fortunately we still have much more land to use for a backup plan. 60 ha. will be used for what I call the Call Center City, and it will provide the means for our children to go to college.
The BPO industry in the one place where there are more qualified applicants than people interested in applying. Even though BPO’s account for over 100,000 jobs in Cebu City, the call centers here are short at least 50,000 agents. Many of those qualified refuse to join call centers and even among those that do join,many quit. Call centers suffer a 4% resignation rate every month. Reasons for this span from lack of career growth to inability to study or socialize outside of work to transportation and security concerns. How do we address this?
We are packaging a program whereby a call center agent can finish college while still working. Later, they can even choose pursue a master’s degree without resigning. The agent will work, study, and live all in the same building complex so commuting is unnecessary, which will also improve traffic. Movie theatres, restaurants and bars will be right outside, open during their free time. Class schedules adjusted to work schedules so sleep and free time are uninterrupted. And in the end, an agent will be able to have both a college and a master’s degree debt-free.
This will benefit our entire city. At the current number of 100,000 employed, BPOs account for 7 billion pesos infused into Cebu City’s economy every month. With an extra 50,000 jobs, this number increases to over 10 billion per month. This money doesn’t just enter a call center agent’s pockets. This is money that goes to the barbeque vendor, the taxi driver, the labandera, and the sari-sari store owner, who in turn support the livelihoods of other people. This is money that goes to all of Cebu.
This program will better our economy in an even greater way. With this program, it is my dream to produce thousands of college and master’s degree graduates every year so that Cebu City will have the most educated population in the Philippines. With that, it would be very easy for me to speak to foreign investors. Imagine for a second you are a business executive from an international company that is looking to expand. Imagine me telling you, “not only does Cebu have the most educated population in the country, the majority of your workforce will have years of direct experience in dealing with western clients in a service-oriented environment.” What do other cities have to offer?
This, my fellow Cebuanos, is how we grow in the long term and this is how we give the next generation a future.
LONG LIFE PROGRAM:
We attend to the needs of our children, but we must also give care to our elders. As promised the senior citizen’s assistance is finally being distributed at regular intervals. In addition, the primary concern of many of our senior citizens - their health – is being addressed with a revolutionary new program. We have noticed that many seniors who go to the emergency room are people who neglect to take their daily maintenance. If they took their daily dosage, sickness will be reduced and hospitalization minimized. This is especially good for the elders of our mountain barangays. So what did your city government do?
Cebu City is the only LGU in the Philippines (maybe even the world) to have a program where maintenance medicine is delivered door-to-door to a senior citizen every day for free. Daily delivery not only makes it convenient for our senior citizens who have reduced mobility, it is also important because it serves as a gentle reminder for them to take their medications every day. The added expense is more than offset by the fact that our elderly are much less likely to have to go to a hospital because they’re sick. Also, we hire out of school youth to handle the delivery so it provides them a means of livelihood as well. It is a win-win proposition for everybody.
Today, thirty-nine thousand Cebuanos are daily recipients of this program. As soon as our budget allows, we will expand even more. This is more than world class, because there is no other city in this class. Cebu stands alone.
In closing, I would like to let my fellow Cebuanos know that your mayor is on call anytime. Whether it’s leaving my post at the Sinulog grandstand to quell a rowdy mob in Baseline or raiding the house of a spoiled brat who shoots a nurse because he thought belonging to a powerful family makes it ok, I will be there. The mayor is the father of a city, and any father knows that it’s a full time job. My cell phone number is 0917 329 9999. I cannot reply to every single text, but I promise that I read them all.
Our city has much to improve upon, and real change cannot happen overnight, but we will get better. The speed may vary, but the direction will always be forward. Tomorrow will be better than today. The Sto. Niño kept me alive and I owe it to Him and to my fellow Cebuanos to make sure it does. Thank you.