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Rough Cuts | Communicate with the people

It’s been five months since the present local government administration assumed in Davao City. While we believe that the present city governance is merely a continuation of the previous 3-year term of Mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio, there are already new faces in her current term. Her vice mayor, who is her younger brother, could possibly be entertaining the idea that he needs to cast his own shadow in local politics and not remain a simple member of a ruling clan.

There are also new personalities in the City Council who, despite having won a seat because of their aligning with the mayor’s party, may be hoping to chart their own political courses in the years ahead. And they can attain this personal political goal if they can do something significant that will make people remember them as politicians of their own making.

Hence, Davaoenos are looking forward to the time – and we mean the soonest possible – that these officials of the city will fully disclose their public service agenda. They should not only limit themselves to issuing statements to the media or just rehashing their campaign promises. They have to walk their talk even if it could put them on collision course with the pursers of political powers. After all their commitment is to serve the people so the city residents’ welfare should take priority over other interests – including their own.

Of course we are dead sure that Mayor Inday Sara and Vice Mayor Basti Duterte could already be fixed in pursuing the agenda they set of their own as well as those set by their father, long-time city mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte. And we know that they have the authority to say and do that because both officials have a name to protect and a political legacy to perpetuate. In the case of Mayor Sara she has been part of the city governance for some years already.

But the relatively new local government elected executives should be reminded that over the years under the watch of the Duterte’s, Davao has grown economically and socially by leaps and bounce.

Big industries, property developments, huge retail establishments, hotels and related businesses, and business process outsourcings have lately located in the city. As a consequence hundreds of thousands of people from the city’s rural areas and nearby provinces flock to Davao to look for job opportunities.

This has brought the level of the city’s population to a new high of about 1.7 million (excluding transients like students and temporary residents relocated by their study or by their work assignments) as of the latest census conducted. Way back some fifteen years ago the city’s population was roughly at one million only. The burgeoning population has resulted to the agglomeration of the so-called informal settlements in both government and privately-owned lands. This had resulted to frictions between occupants and land owners, government included. These have also further constricted the already limited space in the city proper.

This robust growth has also generated such not-too-easy-to-solve problem as humongous vehicular traffic congestion in its main entry and exit highways and downtown thoroughfares. The build-up starts as early as 7 o’clock in the morning until about 10 towards noon. It resurrects by 4 to 7 in the evening. And this is already on a daily basis except on major holidays.

Then there are the recurring flash floods in many downtown areas and in communities along the city’s major water ways. Over the years the flash floods have claimed several lives and brought damage to properties and crops in millions of pesos. Clearly, this phenomenon is brought about by the flagrant violation of the city’s land use plan not only by some subdivision developers and industries but by the city officials themselves.

Yes, it is an open secret that every now and then the city council grants exemptions to industry applicants for locational clearance in areas expressly prohibited by the existing zoning ordinance ostensibly in the name of development. And why not when the requesting party for spot zoning or conversion carries with it highly enticing perks? These may include huge property, business permit fees, and other taxes for the city, as well as massive opportunities for employment for local residents. There could be other “offers” that could make rejection of the request even more difficult.

We see these problems that are brought about by development as the most pressing to be addressed by the current city administration. And the people of Davao City are too eager to know what the plans of the city leadership are to confront these issues head-on before they become too gigantic and difficult to solve.

We do not know if it is asking too much for both the executive and legislative departments of the city government to come up with updated reports of their plans, in terms of programs and projects, or support legislations, on quarterly basis so that their constituents will know their agenda vis-à-vis their campaign promises. Such report in document form shall also contain information as to how much they have accomplished.

After all, the local government has a City Information Office (CIO) whose primary responsibility is to communicate to the people of Davao what their officials are doing and how much they have done for their interest.

And yes, the City Council itself has a Committee on Information that we are certain knows why it is there for.

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