UNSTOPPABLE FORCE – Mayor Belen T. Fernandez details the accomplishments and achievements of the Dagupan City government to the people of Dagupan City during her State of the City Address (SOCA) before the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) at CSI Stadia, Lucao. (CIO photo by Jojo Tamayo)

DAGUPAN CITY – Mayor Belen T. Fernandez bared the numerous achievements and accomplishments of the city, most notably in the area of finances, infrastructure development and support to education, to the people of Dagupan City during her State of the City Address (SOCA) before the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) at CSI Stadia on September 10.

In her speech, Mayor Fernandez shared how the last five years of progress under a government of “Asenso at Pagbabago” catapulted the city into its most competitive state yet.

She asked: “Are we better off now than we were five years ago?”

Fernandez said the city made a huge leap by landing in the number 13 spot among all cities in the entire country in the Philippine Competitive Index in 2017. This was a far cry as compared to its previous national ranking of number 44 in 2014.

In 2017, Dagupan placed number 16 in infrastructure, number 9 in government efficiency, and number 16 in economic dynamism, making huge leaps and bounds compared to the city’s ranks in 2014.

The city also continues to be the region’s foremost urban economy, with Dagupan maintaining its overall ranking in the regional level for its second year. This, after Dagupan maintained its number 1 spot in government efficiency, infrastructure and economic dynamism for two consecutive years.

“It comes as no surprise that for the last two years, we are the leading and the best local government unit in this part of the country, earning the nod as over-all Most Competitive LGU in the entire region,” said Fernandez.

As of 2017, the city also displayed its strongest state of finances in history.

“I am pleased to report that we have not only made a turnaround in our economy. The speed of growth of our economy is simply unstoppable,” said Fernandez.

The city realized its highest cash surplus for five consecutive years, capped by its strongest showing in 2017 with 147 million pesos.

Rationalization of expenditures by bringing government efficiency with lesser costs resulted in overtime pay decreasing even further, breaking last year’s historic lowest level of P3 million in 2016 to P2.9 million in 2017.

The city’s impressive economic growth continues to come from its aggressive collections.

Market collections have doubled from P37.7 million in 2010 to P74.4 million in 2017 while comfort room collections multiplied exponentially with P9.2 million in 2017 compared to over P800,000 in 2013.

Income on real property tax also increased significantly from P25 million in 2010 to P41 million in 2017.

Collections for market cash tickets have also increased from its previous P7 million in 2013 to P12.7 million in 2017 while yearly deboning collections notched a spike from P280,568 in 2016 to more than P800,000 in one year.

“My fellow Dagupenos, the numbers cannot be disputed and needs no embellishments. The changes are positive, and impact is felt,” said Fernandez.

On education, Mayor Fernandez shared the local government’s continuous investment in the futures of the Dagupeno youth through its pioneering MBTF Scholarship program.

The program now has a budget of P22 million in 2018 compared to its previous P3 million budget in 2013. The past city administration did not fund any scholar.

The budget has so finally allowed more than 1,565 well-deserving children of needy Dagupenos to enroll in universities and colleges that enabled them to pursue a career of their own choice.

To date, the city government has already produced 220 graduates with 11 passing the state board, while continuing to support 1,345 scholars until they graduate.

Yearly appropriation for education programs has also doubled from its P69 million budget in 2013 to nearly P130 million in 2018.

“Our investments in children has opened tremendous opportunities that has never been accorded to them five years ago. Today, we have scores of programs and activities that makes Dagupan the safest, happiest and healthiest city for our children,” said Fernandez.

Aside from education programs, the city government continues to extend its support to the youth.

Under Mayor Fernandez’s leadership, the city government has launched several programs and projects for the youth. These include the Children Summit, an annual activity held in partnership with the Department of Education (DEpEd) attended yearly by more than 20,000 children from public and private schools.

Different activities are conducted in line with the summit’s theme. To date, the city has already conducted three different summits on health, music and journalism.

The Balon Dagupan Children’s Choir and Children’s Youth Orchestra was also created through the support of the city government. The music scholars distinguished themselves  in various competitions, even bagging major international awards.

In 2017, the Balon Dagupan Children’s Choir became back-to-back winners after having been adjudged as champion in the National Music Competitions for Young Artists (NAMCYA) for the second time.

At the same time, the city government also created “Manglingkor Ya Kalangweran”, a leadership program that allows the youth to manage the affairs of the city by  jobshadowing their real-time counterparts.

Children were also encouraged to spend a significant amount of time with books through the “Ate/Kuya, Kwentuhan mo Kami, Mobile Library. ” The program seeks to build the children’s interest in reading at an early age through story telling activities.

Other projects launched include “Lehitimo Ako, Batang Dagupeno”, a project aimed to legitimizing all Dagupeno children born out of wedlock; “Junior Health Advocate”, a project seeking the youth’s involvement in health awareness by making the youth in charge for making sure their fellow classmates and parents are healthy; “Junior Fire Marshall”, a project held in partnership with the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) which educates the youth on fire safety and prevention; and “BuLiLit” (Business and Livelihood Literacy) project which empowers the youth to learn money management, accountability and transparency.

Lectures were also conducted by the Public Order and Safety Office (POSO) on traffic rules and regulations as well as by the City Veterinary Office (CVO) on responsible pet ownership among children.

Mayor Fernandez disclosed that these projects were launched by the different government offices of the city as part of their collective contribution to the support of children.

Aside from projects, two new infrastructures were constructed for the use of the youth. These include the E-Library, a complete computer facility equipping Dagupeno students access to online articles, e-books and researches, and the Balon Dagupan Teen Center, a center dedicated to the talent and skills development of the youth. The center will be fully equipped with sports amenities and will have a dance studio, a conference room and training room.

At the same time, the city government’s decision to reform its sports policy by the establishment of the Dagupan City Sports Commission in collaboration with the Department of Education and other sports officials proved fruitful, following the multiple achievements earned by young Dagupeno athletes through the full support of the organization.

“Our expenditures in youth and sports give flesh to our declared commitment to our young people, with more than P13 million appropriated in 2017, “said Fernandez.

From Dagupan winning only the “best in uniform” award during the Region 1 Athletic Association Meet in 2014, the city was adjudged R1AA overall champion in 2018, with 72 gold, 53 silver and 39 bronze medals after landing second place 2017 and 2016,respectively.

On infrastructure development, Mayor Fernandez described the last five years as a “regime of expansive physical development throughout the city.”

“The last time we have witnessed this (expansive development) was the city’s massive reconstruction and rehabilitation in the wake of the July 16, 1990 earthquake which devastated nearly 80-percent of Dagupan, ” said Fernandez.

For the last five years, the city already built at least 184 classrooms for Dagupeno students.

The city is also constructing  a two-storey Special Education (SPED) building at West Central Elementary School 1 (WCES1) which will be equipped with the latest learning materials that will cater to children who have physical disabilities and handicaps.

A Special Program for the Arts (SPA) building was also constructed at the Dagupan City National High School (DCNHS). The facility was constructed to provide a venue for talented artists, housing studios including theater and visual arts, music and dance studio, media room, acoustic room and creative room.

“Being appointed as the K-12 focal person by the League of Cities of the Philippines, we are fully committed to work with the national government for the students’ good future, ” said Fernandez.

Mayor Fernandez also discussed in detail the numerous completed road elevation projects in the city made possible through the “Your Taxes Made it Possible Program”.

Saying that solution to flooding is her top priority, Fernandez said her administration will continue to elevate low-lying roads to make them at level with national roads raised by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

She admitted getting many bashing from critics  but tried to disarm them with a song composition that begs understanding from them and who she thought must have overlooked the many programs and projects she did, which far outweigh all the programs and projects built by many past administrations.

Fernandez has announced that Rep. Christopher de Venecia  has partnered with her in solving the problems of the floods in the city when he asked the DPWH to complete the dikes along the Pantal River and to provide the city with another dredging machine, in addition to the two already it has, including the bigger one whose repair is set for completion by October.

Aside from the road elevation projects, several infrastructure projects will soon be constructed following simultaneous groundbreaking ceremonies held earlier this year. These include the Balon Dagupan Teen Center, Tennis Courts and Tourism Center in the Balon Dagupan Civic Center as well as the Mayor’s Pavillion, Gazebo and City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO) Rescue Building which will be constructed in Tondaligan.

On disaster preparedness, the city has established the Public Alert and Response Monitoring Center (PARMC), an extension of the CDRRMO focused on monitoring hazards identified to have destructive impacts in the city. The e-Smart Operations operates 24/7 to monitor these hazards to help help mitigate their  adverse impacts.

The city will also have its own Waste 2 Worth facility, following its groundbreaking ceremony this year. The $11M-worth facility, to be built by Sure Global at no cost to the city, will finally provide solution to the 50-year waste problem of the city as it can convert plastic wastes into diesel fuel and food wastes into methane gas for cooking, lighting, among others. This will be the third such facility in the country.

“Making Dagupan City the cleanest city in the Philippines and a model city in all Asian countries was a commitment given to us,” said Fernandez.

At the same time, the city continues to provide strong opportunities to Dagupenos as it transforms into a billion peso economy starting in 2019. Surplus is consistently achieved by the city through efficient budget management and procurement at lower cost but with quality standards.

“There is now no turning back. By all indications, Dagupan is now unstoppable. Our people are tremendously happy with this except our few critics who, despite their efforts to stall our collective efforts, can no longer prevent Dagupan from transforming into a 1 billion to 1.2 billion pesos economy– all of this with no tax increase until 2023,” said Fernandez.

The city government is now taking a fundamentally different approach by establishing a new city hall – the new Government Center which will be located in Barangay Pantal, along the Jose de Venecia Expressway Extension.

All these achievements bared by Mayor Fernandez were the result of the unrelenting force of a united city.

“We are a city of champions, a city of achievers. We will continue to make history leading towards building an enduring legacy until 2023 and beyond… And for all that we have endured, for all the grit, passion, diligence and extraordinary hardwork required to make our beloved city as the most competitive in the region, I’m proud to report that the state of our city is more vibrant, more robust and stronger than ever,” said Fernandez. (Verdelle De Vera/CIO)