Mayor Lucilo Bayron, delivering his third state of the city address (SOCA) at the City Coliseum

Mayor Lucilo Bayron, delivering his third state of the city address (SOCA) yesterday, underscored his administration’s achievements in untangling what he claimed to be the fiscal mismanagement of the previous administration and in providing better services to the public.

Early in his speech delivered for one hour and 15 minutes before city officials and guests at the City Coliseum, Bayron pointed out that his administration has been able to reduce a significant amount of cash deficit incurred by the previous administration, thus allowing the city to better manage its finances.

He said that in the last two years, they were able to remove a P663 million cash deficit and reduced the city’s indebtedness, from P2.17 billion to a low of P250 million as of August 2019.

“Mababayaran na natin ito sa susunod. [Nasa] P159 million ang mga vouchers na pending sa treasurer’s office — ‘yong iba dito 2010 pa o tatlong taon na naghihintay ng kabayaran — bayad na ang lahat ng ito,” he said.

He pointed out that the city government had owed the Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) P34 million in electric bills, but this had already been paid by his administration.

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To date, he said vouchers that need to be paid no longer wait for the arrival of the internal revenue allotment (IRA) because the city government can already pay as it is able to manage its finances well.

He said as of September 14, 2019, the city government has a savings deposit of P459 million in the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).

Tourism issues, future plans

Bayron said a problem in the underground river booking system was recorded in the past which earned the city criticisms around the world, but this had already been resolved.

He said this became evident when Tripadvisor gave the subterranean river a certificate of excellence and was recognized as a Hall of Famer for three consecutive years of receiving the document.

“Maayos na at transparent ang Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) booking system at noong 2019 tumanggap tayo ng pagkilala mula sa Tripadvisor ng certificate of excellence at saka ng Hall of Famer dahil tatlong taon na nating tinatanggap ang certificate na ito,” he said.

Bayron also noted that the PPUR had already transferred to its new office in the Mendoza Park area where it is now accessible to tourists.

He also pointed out that last year, tourist arrivals in the city recorded a 26 percent increase which is higher than the national government.

In the next three years, Bayron said additional tourist destinations will be established to improve visitor arrivals.

The first will be the improvement and promotion of the 3.13-kilometer “Tourism Mile” in front of the Provincial Capitol to Canigaran Beach.

“Dito ay hinahangad natin na magtayo ng mga restaurants, bars, hotels, 24/7 stores, money changers, at iba pang establishments na pupuntahan ng mga turista sa gabi,” he said.

The offered incentive, he explained, will be no payment of local taxes for the first five years.

He also mentioned further developments in Mendoza Park, the full development of the Balayong Park, and the City Coliseum, the Sports Complex and Fitness Park.

Relocation of informal settlers

Bayron’s SOCA also centered on the purchase in the past administration of lands for the relocation of informal settlers, claiming some of them are not suitable and are overpriced at P40.2 million.

“Kung saan-saan bumili ng maliliit na lupa para sa relocation. Pero marami sa binili ay hindi angkop at overpriced pa. Ang tatlong lote na ito ay makikita niyo na nagkakahalaga ng P40.2 million at klaro sa mga pictures na hindi sila angkop para sa relocation,” he said.

He said they are acquiring two properties in Barangay Irawan — one 20 hectares and the other 23 — at fair prices for the relocation of around 6,000 families from the coastal areas.

In the Quito District, he said four barangays — Liwanag, Mabuhay, Pagkakaisa, and Bagong Silang — where 1,753 families have remained for relocation.

“Ire-relocate natin itong families one time, big time doon sa Irawan. Sa mga kababayan natin na ma-a-assign sa Irawan, huwag kayong matakot kasi kayo ang unang priority sa employment ng mga gagawing facilities doon sa mga facilities sa gagawing Integrated Agriculture Center,” he said.

Eight hectares in the four barangays will be reclaimed for the cruise ship terminal that will be constructed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Biodiversity Museum that only Canada has now, a 5,000-capacity convention center, and exhibit area.

The area could also be for hotels and restaurants under either a joint venture, private-public partnership, or long-term lease.

It will also have a new bay walk and where a launching pad for the bay cruise will also be placed for sailing around Puerto Princesa Bay.

Development of heritage parks in Barangays Matiyaga and Liwanag is also being eyed for P14.6 million to revitalize the urban heritage hall.

Construction of city roads, buildings, bridges

On the construction of road projects, the city mayor said they have purchased heavy equipment units since those the past administration acquired were already wasted and in bad shape.

These were replaced with 66 units within six years of his administration that only cost P307 million.

“Dahil sa mga ganitong estado ng mga heavy equipment, marami sa mga kalsada sa lungsod ay hindi nama-maintain. Noong pagdating natin, grabeng double time para mahabol ‘yong maintenance ng mga city roads,” he said.

To date, he said the city has constructed a total of 97.6 kilometers of road worth P1.4 billion, including the completion of the first concrete bridge in Nasuduan worth P19.4 million.

“Alam ko nakikita ng mga mamamayan ito dahil maraming nagpapasalamat sa atin. Ang mga kalsada umabot na sa Bagong Bayan, Barangay Simpucan sa Kamuning, Inagawan hanggang dito sa Langogan pababa, hanggang sa Cabayugan,” Bayron said.

Bayron said the city now has 35 units of heavy equipment worth P224 million, under processing is the acquisition of 21 units that are worth P83 million.

More will be purchased next year to 2022 to help the City Engineering Office (CEO) construct more roads.

“Suma-total, 66 units ng heavy equipment at ang kanyang halaga ay aabot ng P307 million. Meron pa tayong mga bibilihin mula next year hanggang 2022 at ito ay makakadagdag sa kakayahan ng ating city engineering na mag-construct at mag-maintain ng mga infrastructure projects,” he said.

There will be purchases of equipment for a rock-crashing plant, concrete batching plant, asphalt batching plant, materials testing laboratory, and concrete and asphalt pavers, and 50 more construction equipment to be assigned in the satellite city halls.

Some technical positions have also been created in the CEO — 30 engineers and nine technical positions — improve its capabilities and capacities.

“Itatayo na natin ‘yong City Architecture Department (CAD) sa tulong syempre ng Sangguniang Panlungsod. It’s about time na buohin na natin ‘yong departamento ng architecture dahil mabilis na umuunlad ang lungsod ng Puerto Princesa,” he said.

He said the office will be composed of 21 positions — 12 architects, three engineers, six technicians, and five administrative employees.

The Office of the Building Official (OBO) will also be created with a department head, an assistant department head, 10 engineers, two architects, nine technicians, and three administrative staff.

He said a total of 129 building construction have been completed worth P1.2 billion.

Public markets and slaughterhouse recovery

Bayron reported as its accomplishment the city government’s recovery of its facilities, the two public markets and the slaughterhouse from Areza-Cruz Realty Development Corporation Inc. (ACRDCI) which took longer to happen since the corporation elevated the matter to the Supreme Court (SC).

“Imbis na gumanda ang sitwasyon ng mga facilities na ito, lumala pa. Umabot pa ang usaping ito sa SC — ayon sa SC, null and void ang pagsasa-pribado from the very beginning dahil walang bidding na na-conduct,” he said.

He said that based on COA findings, due to the privatization agreement with Areza-Cruz and the length of time it had managed the facilities, the city government already lost P58 million annually.

Areza-Cruz managed the facilities for seven years, he said.

“So, nalugi tayo ng P350 million. Nabawi na natin ang mga facilities na ito noong August 26, kaya ngayon, tayo na ang nag-o-operate ng mga ito,” he added.

City lights, PALECO problem

Bayron said that when he started his office, some 1,804 LED bulbs were installed in Rizal Avenue, Malvar Street, Fernandez Street, and other city roads to enhance the security of individuals and to ensure that residents stay awake long enough for economic activities to continue at night.

“May 845 na bilog na bombilya ang nalagay sa mga malalayong barangay, 30 solar na may 25 watt bulbs ang naikabit natin sa Brgys. Marufinas at New Panggangan dahil wala silang kuryente doon kaya solar, at sa Brgy. San Pedro, at sa San Manuel 608 na smart light at 52 road flares. Mga kababayan, puwede nating ipagmalaki sa buong bansang Pilipinas, tayo ang pinakaunang nakapag-install ng smart lighting system,” Bayron said.

In the world, he said only 32 countries are using smart lights, including the Philippines because of Puerto Princesa City.

In the next three years or earlier, Bayron said they will install lights in city roads from Brgys. Irawan to Sta. Lourdes to ensure the safety of the public.

Bayron noted their decision to file a case against the Palawan Electric Cooperative (PALECO) so the power coop will be compelled to fix the constant power interruptions to deliver effective services to member-consumers.

“Dahil sa laki ng epekto ng blackout, brownouts sa ekonomiya ng lungsod, kinasuhan natin ang PALECO para mapilitan silang ayusin ang kanilang serbisyo,” he said.

Expensive cost of welcoming visitors

“Hindi na tayo nagpapa-dinner sa mga bisita hangga’t kayang iwasan. Para sa akin, hindi kailangan ito dahil maa-afford naman nila itong dinner,” Bayron explain on the city government’s decision not to sponsor meals for national events and others happening in Puerto Princesa.

Bayron said that instead of the city government spending for convention and other event delegates, he would rather spend the money to sponsor a feast for the residents.

Agriculture capability enhancement

In agriculture capability enhancement, he said the city government has purchased six farm tractors worth P10 million to help improve farm mechanization.

The City Agriculture Office also acquired 187 machinery and equipment units distributed to farmers and concreting of 11.4 kilometers of road completed in Langogan, three kilometers in Sicugan, and some six kilometers of road concreting that will be implemented.

Social welfare and health

Bayron also lauded the accomplishments of the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) in connection with Puerto Princesa being a child-friendly local government unit (LGU) and the protection of children.

“Meron ding award sa good practice at saka special olympics na ginanap hanggang sa Abu Dhabi.

On health, Bayron said the city will be focusing on preventive medicine.

“Meron akong statement sa city health mga tatlong taon na ang nakaraan, na nasabi ko sa kanila na mula ngayon, ayokong makakarinig na merong namatay na ina dahil sa panganganak at sanggol na bagong panganak na hindi nakikita ng medical personnel ng city health,” he said.

Because of this, he said the ambulance that was used before for emergency patients should also serve pregnant mothers about to give birth no matter where she is in the city.

He said 73 positions have been created to enhance the CHO’s capability composed of medical officers III, medical technicians III, rural technicians, nurses, midwives, statisticians, and ambulance drivers.

The city government, he added, has also completed the construction of six health centers in Barangays Bancao-Bancao, Maunlad, Buenavista, Mangingisda, Marufinas, at Babuyan.

Bayron added a P50 million fund had also been set aside for the construction of Phase 1 of the CHO building.

“Bibili pa tayo ng mga karagdagang ambulance that will be assigned in mini city halls at satellite clinics natin,” he said.

Investment forum in Manila

On September 25, Bayron said the city will conduct a business forum in Manila to invite investors to venture to Puerto Princesa City.

But ahead of that, it already has around P27.1 billion investment pledges for the expansion of existing and new businesses.

“Kung maging successful itong investment forum na ito — na nakikita kong magiging successful — magsasagawa uli tayo ng mga investment forum na kung kinakailangang sa ibang bansa ay gagawa tayo para maka-attract ng investors. Bakit? Kasi ang investment ay ma-e-equate natin sa employment, sa taxes, at saka sa pag-generate ng ating ekonomiya,” he said.

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