Thursday, 14 February 2013

EDITORIAL: The masters of the government

IT has been said time and again that the people are the masters of the government.

President Noynoy Aquino simplified this when he said that "the people are my Boss".

Ricarte Padilla, the incumbent mayor of Mambulao, aka Jose Panganiban, did not say this when he came into office three years ago, but he just did what he had to do as a public servant to give meaning to the PNoy mantra - by serving the people, his people, the constituents who put him to where he is now.

Mambulaoans saw him working like a dog; labeling him as such was fair enough because he delivered.

It could be safely assumed that the old-timers of Mambulao may only remember three people who served them in their own style when they were mayors - Marciano Linis, Roy Padilla Sr and the incumbent “Dong” Padilla.

Linis, as a name, had a good recall for a politician. But it just died there.

Mambulaoans may remember that it was at the height of mining in Mambulao when he held the helm of the municipal government.

The Philippine Iron Mines (PIM) was the biggest iron mine in the country those days, but both -- Linis the mayor, and PIM the biggest revenue-maker for the coffers of the municipality -- failed to spark development.

So through the peoples' votes of no-confidence in the election that came next, he was banished from the mayor's office.

Roy Padilla Sr promised things to the people, especially the laborers whom he worked with during his days as a labor leader.

He tried and his efforts made him well-loved by Mambulaoans.

They remembered him as the cowboy hat-wearing-horseback-riding mayor, immortalized by a statue to his image that has been enshrined at the heart of Mambulao.

But in spite of this, Roy Padilla Sr could only deliver less of what was expected of him as mayor in terms of progress.

Almost three years ago, progress-and-development hungry Mambulaoans put their bets on “Dong” Padilla when they elected him mayor; and hoped that the three years (or maybe nine years) that he would be in office won't be wasted, the way his predecessor William A Lim, aka Walim, did to his nine years.

Sitting at the helm of the local government as mayor, Walim performed a lackluster job, and the people remembered him more for squandering nine precious years of what could have been a model of good governance. They were the supposed golden years for him, which instead turned into lead.

Secretly, Dong Padilla has remained unhappy to be compared with Roy Padilla Sr, his late father.

To erase the nasty comparisons for good, “Dong” Padilla created his own brand of image - he religiously wore a virgin white short-sleeved "polo-Barong" for his work-clothes, showing up in functions - official and otherwise - in this get up.

Mambulaoans saw him as a man of purity.

But it did not end there.

Padilla wanted this act to symbolize the kind of governance he is trying to put in place in the local government of Mambulao  -  one that is transparent, reliable, honest and working – all for the good of the community.

Nowadays, the Mambulaoans are a happy lot because things are looking up for them.

The overseas natives were amazed just as their counterparts in town to see that development is in the making, which hopefully they could call "true progress" later.

Last summer when the Balikbayan Mambulaoans drove across the municipality, they had some comfort as they rode through the cemented roads that were not there during those days when they were young.

And they wished that these ribbons of concrete would stretch up some more towards the hinterlands of Mambulao.

They know that good roads usually speed up economic progress as it connects farms to the market in town where farm produce becomes cash for the farmers' pockets and for others and blood to sustain the life of the local economy.

Business permit tax revenue collection, which was lagging at a measly yearly sum of just above P1 million years before 2010, is now at P12 million high annually. With an airtight money pipeline, there have been no leaks in revenue inflow.

The other good news is that the cost of building a kilometer of concrete road has been reduced from the usual DPWH contracted price of P10 million, to half, or P1 million for every 200 meters of cemented road.

And Padilla continues to build roads at a cost of P5 million per kilometer, saving the other P5 million for the next kilometer of cemented road.

It was obvious therefore, that in almost all road contracts signed across the country, half of the government funds went to the pockets of corrupt officials and their equally-corrupt contractor-friends.

Mambulao now operates a water agency called the Water Board, which pumps drinkable water to households across town and in the surrounding baranggays.

Very soon, the pipeline network would reach as far as Larap after passing through the baranggays of Calero, Sta Milagrosa, Pag-asa and Spurline.

Aware of the growing army of jobless youth, the LGU set up a facility in Larap early last year to train idle individuals in skills hoped would land them in good paying jobs.

Called the Roy Padilla Memorial Training Center, the facility provided a three-month skills training course on welding, bread and pastry making. New courses such as Information Technology (IT) and automotive mechanics will be offered as soon as funds and facilities become available.

The first batch of 100 successful trainees out of 200 enrollees graduated last August and obtained certificates of job proficiency from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) in Labo. With these Tesda certificates, many among the first batch have been immediately employed in the province and elsewhere.

While the second batch of trainees are now on board, the LGU is again working to set up a jobs fair late this year to help prospective employers to fill up available jobs in their respective companies from among Mambulao’s skilled labor force. Sometime last November, a jobs fair was held where several workers were hired on the spot.

Recently, the LGU’s healthcare program received a big boost with the installation of an ultrasound facility at the local Primary Hospital designed to serve the needs of expectant mothers. A first in the province to be operated by a municipal government, the service has already benefited many local mothers who only paid at least P400 for the service, a cost much cheaper than those offered in Daet, the provincial capital and commercial center.

Recently, the LGU moved to step up its community waste disposal system by offering to buy waste plastic materials at P10 per sack under a program called “Pera sa Basura”.

With a budget of half-million pesos, the local government will provide each household with a sack for the plastic rubbish, which will be brought to a materials recovery facility (MRF) in Larap where the waste materials are sorted out for recycling by a contractor.

The LGU said that plastic materials are one of the common causes of pollution along Parang beach as well as water tributaries around the town. The plastic recovery scheme is hoped to rid the community, especially the community beach, of this pollutant.

A major infrastructure project next to the road concreting is the dredging of barangay esteros and creeks in an effort to forestall flooding in the poblacion.

Already, the LGU has spent close to a million pesos to rehabilitate major waterways to contain the flow of potential flood waters and direct them towards Mambulao Bay instead of spilling into the surrounding baranggays. In doing so, the banks of said esteros were also developed as walkways with guard rails, thus making them aesthetically pleasing.

In his inaugural speech at the Municipal session Hall on July 7, 2010, Padilla spelled out his executive-legislative agenda.

It was a long laundry list covering the socio-economic aspects that were all aimed at making life in Mambulao a better one.

Some of the most vital projects are gradually coming to fruition, especially the infrastructure components, job-generation and healthcare.

A number of these have yet to be carried out especially those that were forced to hibernate for decades and are just beginning to see the light.

Three years – from July 7, 2010 to June 30, 2013 – would not be enough to cover all these.

How about another three years for “Dong” Padilla?

This would allow him to refine the ones on-going and to launch the next batch of equally vital projects, which, to our mind, would now be much easier to do.

What do you think?

-  Alfredo P Hernandez

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