Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia scored big time against his rival, former Third District Rep. Albee Benitez of Victorias City, in their first face-to-face encounter during the Debate Serye 2022 Wednesday organized by station DYHB of Radio Mindanao Network at the Osbron Hall of Ikthus Bacolod.
Shortly after they were introduced by moderator-station manager Joeny Bigay, Leonardia’s opening statement detailed several hallmarks of his administration before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These included Bacolod being hailed as the Most Competitive City by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in 2019 and 2021; Best Performing LGU in Western Visayas by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), also in 2019; one the 57 cities to be awarded with the Seal of Good Local Governance and recently, the Most Business-Friendly Highly Urbanized City outside of Metro Manila by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), among others.
Bacolod also recorded a 38 percent increase in business registrations at 25,627 in only four years and saw its annual budget rise to P1 billion in a matter of three years.
“All the indicators were there that Bacolod City was having its fastest growth rate ever,” said the mayor during the three-hour debate that now reached over 140,000 views.
Leonardia said that the city was one of the very few LGUs in the country to establish a local Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) with elected officials and executives manning the frontlines and took COVID-19 head-on.
The city’s aggressive vaccination program and continued reminders to constituents to observe health protocols were likewise instrumental as Bacolod was one of the 39 cities to be recently deescalated to Alert Level 1 by the national IATF.
“This is, for us, a gold medal. This tells us that indeed, our policies and practices were hitting the targets,” he added.
TRAFFIC IS PROGRESS
While the four-part debate had light moments on the side, Leonardia and Benitez took turns in answering some of the more serious questions thrown at them.
“Roundtable Discussion” tackled issues regarding climate change and disaster risk reduction and management; peace and order and infrastructure; local economy; fiscal management and good governance, while “Radiomen’s Notebook” centered on traffic management; sanitation, housing and disaster response.
Along this line, the mayor addressed the fact that 104,000 or 52 percent of the vehicles in Negros Occidental are registered in Bacolod when compared to Iloilo with only 34,000.
“Traffic is a sign of progress. That is even how the MMDA thinks,” the mayor explained.
This, however, comes with Bacolod working with MMDA to regulate the increasing vehicle volume by adding more traffic lights, traffic enforcers and the utilization of 104 close-circuit televisions to monitor traffic conditions around the city.
ECONOMIC RECOVERY PLAN
The city’s economic recovery plan will be anchored on government spending, aggressive investment promotion and good governance.
Among those that the LGU has lined-up are various infrastructure projects worth P3 billion.
“When you do infra projects, there will be government spending. Money will circulate,” Leonardia said, pointing out several multiplier effects that would help construction suppliers, vendors and other recipients.
Last year’s Most Business-Friendly City award will also come as a big boost as big investors continue to flock Bacolod to slowly reinvigorate economic flow.
In closing, Leonardia once again reminded the audience that Bacolod is already a major player that has reaped recognitions and accolades under his watch.
“We’ve seen the records, we’ve seen how Bacolod has grown through the years,” he said.
But while the pandemic dealt a huge blow that hampered the growth of the city, it also taught his administration to cooperate as one, cohesive unit.
“COVID-19 was a test. It taught us to work as a team. It made us better city officials and it made us realize that if we work together, we can do a lot.”
If given a chance to once again serve the city, the Mayor assured that Grupo Progreso will give it their all to continue what they had started.
“We are a tested and proven team. We will always do better than our best, and the best is yet to come,” Leonardia said.*