DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 June) – With barely three weeks left before she ends her lone term, Mayor Sara Duterte delivered her final State of the City Address (SOCA) Tuesday highlighting her accomplishments on agriculture, information and communications technology (ICT) and tourism sectors.
Duterte, who spoke to reporters an hour before she delivered her last SOCA, noted that another important accomplishment of her administration was regaining last year the Presidential Award for the “Most Child-Friendly City” for highly-urbanized city category.
She said it was the third time the city won the award after 13 long years. The city was a recipient of the award for two consecutive years from 1998 to 1999.
Delivering her SOCA speech for about an hour, Duterte admitted facing difficult challenges during her term like flooding, waste management and resettlement of informal settlers from dangerous areas.
In her 12-page SOCA, the mayor initially bared the bad news for the city.
Duterte said she would have wanted to start the mass transit system plan, which would address the future problems of transportation in the city.
“We recognize that movement of goods and people is of primordial importance in commerce and industry,” said the mayor, who was wearing a floral lime green jusi barong.
The other bad news for the city government was that it failed to construct a tenement housing project because it is “too expensive” at a cost of P64 million, she added.
Duterte suggested for the city government to come up with a structural design that can be financed under the national government’s socialized housing program.
Moreover, the outgoing mayor said that the city government can’t put up the waste-to-energy facility for “lack of material time.”
“However, we already started with the 16th City Council approving our initial agreements with two private corporations. This project will maximize our investment in the sanitary landfill and extend its period of use,” she said.
Duterte said winning the “Most Child-Friendly City” is the one that every Dabawenyo should be proud of because “this gives priority to the heirs of our city.”
“It was a bittersweet triumph as we waited 13 years to once again claim this prestigious honor,” she noted.
The mayor said it was a challenge to change the perception of how the city government treats minors, especially those who are in conflict with law.
Duterte thanked the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, saying it was him who encouraged her to do something about the children who are involved in criminal activities.
The mayor stressed they have completed the upgrading of the Paginhawaan Drop-in Center for Street Children and formed the Quick Response Team for Children’s Concerns.
“These [initiatives] will accommodate children needing temporary shelter and provide them with a safer residential facility. This will allow our City Social Services Development Office (CSSDO) to hold the children before they are released back to their families,” Duterte said.
She added that another facility, comprising the first of several buildings, has been completed—referring to it as the Davao City Children’s Village at Barangay Bago Oshiro, Tugbok district, for children at risk and children in conflict with the law.
Duterte said she would like to seek the permission of the city council to name the first building in the facility after Robredo.
The most difficult problems
In the earlier press briefing, the mayor explained that addressing the three most difficult problems she underscored in her SOCA—the mass transit system, the housing project and the waste-to-energy facility— would entail so much resources of the city government.
”Kung i-invest namo tanan ang kwarta sa city, mapabayaan nato ang uban. So kinihanglan hinay-hinay ang pag-invest and kihinanglan may master plan (If we invest all the money of the city, other [services] would suffer. We need to invest slowly and there should be a master plan),” Duterte pointed out.
While she cited that there are 15 priority flooded-areas, she said the city government at the start of her term allocated P96 million to address the flooding problem.
The city government has so far spent P57 million for nine areas, adding that the allocation should be continued for the remaining areas.
Recently, heavy rains turned some of the city’s streets into virtual river, making it difficult for commuters and motorists to navigate the road due to floodwaters.
Clogged drainage systems have been blamed for the flooding in the downtown area.
Duterte, who did not seek reelection in the May 13 election, told reporters she would want to see the next administration continue her administration’s success on agriculture, ICT and tourism.
Her father, Rodrigo, will be back as the city mayor after serving as her vice mayor for a single term as well.
In her final SOCA, the mayor recalled that in her first SOCA, she identified those three focus areas as the city’s priority industry sectors.
One of the highlights in the tourism sector was the launching of the “Life is Here” campaign.
“We saw an unprecedented 29.21% increase in weekly flights to Davao City from various destinations in the country as compared to that of 2011. We saw the tourism arrival data hit the one million mark, from 744,274 in 2011 to 1,075,000 in 2012,” the mayor reported.
Duterte added that the number of licensed tourism establishments posted a growth in 2012 with a total of 1,284 registered with the City Tourism Operations Office, a 10.12 percent increase from the 1,166 recorded licensed establishments in 2011.
The Sustainable Agro-Forestry for Rural Upland Communities (SARUC) program of the City Agriculturist’s Office has already produced 896,583 seedlings at the Malagos Central Nursery and 45 other barangay-based nurseries, she also disclosed.
“We strongly supported initiatives in the promotion of organic farming by producing organic fertilizers and pesticides in the Malagos nursery in order to reduce the farmers’ production cost and minimize the use of harmful chemicals in the local agriculture industry,” Duterte added.
The city government approved in February 2010 an ordinance promoting organic agriculture.
Citing the gains in ICT, the mayor disclosed that the city is now home to 90 Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) companies.
Back to private practice
Asked by reporters if she would seek any local positions in the next elections, Duterte said she has not yet considered it.
By July 1, she will be holding office in a law firm along with her husband, Mans Carpio.
Duterte also told reporters that she will not accept any appointed position in the next administration, noting “the law disallows it because the appointing authority is her father.”
She said she is open to helping civil society organizations working for the welfare of the children. (Keith Bacongco/ MindaNews)