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My Palm Notes
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
"MABALACAT, where is my city?"
That was the title of a column piece I wrote few weeks ago. One can easily conclude from it that it was not a rosy picture. It was about some eyesores, disorderliness, traffic mess and other concerns on public safety in Mabalacat.
I mentioned in particular the need to put in order the sidewalks, loading areas, the highway at the Mabalacat Public Market area and some points in Dau also. It was a call on the local officials to get rid of illegal and ambulant vendors, peddlers, encroachments like signages and illegally parked vehicles, and similar things.
It also urged the city government to put do some aesthetic jobs to make Mabalacat really distinct and a cut above the rest.
The article elicited some reaction – both good and bad. I have expected that though.
It is good that my kumpare Rosan Pacquia, the City Administrator, took it as a constructive criticism. He was very positive about it, thanking me even for “helping (us) govern.”
Such receptiveness should be emulated and must be the hallmark of a true public servant. I believe that some of his colleagues know all too well also that being “balat sibuyas” has no place in dealing with the public whose taxes make them earn a living.
His response did not end in his brief text message as he sent me copies of minutes of meetings that dealt with the issues I raised. He also invited me to join in some meetings.
His actions were more of an institutional response as the city government tries to put in place concrete and long-lasting solutions. The City Administrator wrote the City Council on issues like regulating traffic on the Sta.Ines intersection and regulating too the entry of quarry trucks near Mabalacat City College.
A truck ban along Macarthur Highway on rush hours would be most appropriate. If they can implement that in Angeles City, why can’t it be done in Mabalacat?
Mr. Pacquia, of course, was acting with the imprimatur of Mayor Morales whom he said has directed him to “do what you have to do within the bounds of your authority.”
I was told that, as a result, the administrator has presided on some meetings of heads of concerned departments to look into the issues. I’m elated too that the city government is seriously considering my suggestion to form a Task Force to pinpoint responsibility.
He also serves as go-between for Mayor Morales as he has met and attended hearings of appropriate committees of the City Council to review or enact some local legislations.
As of this writing, I have not really talked to the Mayor yet but I believe that he now has some strict orders to indeed make the city look good on all fronts.
Most responsive to the issue I raised was June Magbalot insofar as swift, physical and decisive actions are concerned. I do not want to sound bias here but it was him who took the cudgels for the city government when he tasked his staff right away. It was him and Pareng Rosan who immediately met and discussed after my column came out what must be initially done.
Two days after my column came out, the pathwalk along Velasquez Street was repainted. This is the main road from Macarthur Highway that leads to Mabalacat Gate of Clark Freeport.
From rusty iron grills and tarnished yellow paint, it has been turned into a colorful (blue, yellow, orange) structure that brought out some semblance of liveliness and vibrancy. The dilapidated polycarbonate roof is also now being replaced by a more sturdy and durable iron sheet cover.
During the morning rush, I also see about five traffic enforcers and another five volunteers from an accredited group that keep pedestrian and vehicular traffic rolling along Velasquez street.
Now, that starts to really look like some orderliness in that particular section, except probably for some motorcycle riders who have to make stop and buy cooked meals from vendors along the way.
Don’t get me wrong here. I have nothing against these riders nor the vendors as they all try to make a living. I just hope it would be more regulated (with sanitary/health permits and all) for the protection of everyone.
On the Macarthur Highway side, particularly from the intersection up to the Jollibee area, I still see some fishball, buko, fried chicken vendors and the like on the sidewalk. I also see some merchandise like DVD, cellphone gadgets, signboards (both fixed but protruding and movable ones) on sidewalk too. I also could not comprehend why passenger jeepneys are being allowed to queue up along the outermost lane going to Angeles City in that area.
Again, don’t get me wrong here please. I have nothing against anyone especially micro entrepreneurs and jeepney drivers who try to eke for a living. But they can do that with conformity to certain rules that will be good for motorists, pedestrians, everyone. That is where the city government must come in.
One unexpected reaction to the piece I wrote was from former City Councilor Tom Manalo.
A text message from one of the longest serving public officials in Mabalacat City read “Gud pm noel congrats keng column mo k sunstar. Masanting yan ban kimot ya… At atin pa dapat ing peace and order midinan solution atimo robbery holdup keng balen tamu. Tnx, mabuhay ka.”
Apung Tom, also a close ally of Mayor Marino Morales sounded disappointed there, especially on peace and order situation. But that is another issue altogether.
By the way, in that column piece I wrote about the disorderliness, I mentioned something about texting some of the councilors. A portion in that previous article read: “The same text message I sent to Mr. Pacquia did not elicit any reply from some of the honorable councilors to whom I forwarded my complaint”.
If I may clarify, I only sent the text message to “some”. And they did not include Councilor Rox Pena who I heard was affected and is reacting to the piece I wrote.
If I may add, Councilor Rox is just as concerned and is doing his part as a legislator and environmentalist in dealing with related problem that also contribute to the traffic mess – solid waste at the public market.
Another reaction I got was another complaint against sand and gravel trucks that are parked on the newly expanded portion of Macarthur Highway. These illegally parked trucks have been the subject of my several column pieces in the past.
I even wrote the City Council about a possible solution in the establishment of a truck terminal. That letter, which was also forwarded to the Office of the Mayor, was sent to the Council one year ago.
Vice Mayor Christian Halili responded by saying that the issue (along with other concerns I raised on public order and safety) has been referred to some committees. Sadly, no other concrete action that I know of has been put in place except for hearings.
Pastor Orlando Mendoza whose parish or church is located along the highway in Barangay Mamatitang has been complaining of trucks whose drivers indiscriminately park right in front of their building.
Such act by those drivers and tolerance by authorities (especially the police) does not only make it hard for the parishioners to park their vehicles but is also an utter disregard and disrespect for a place of worship.
Could it be that Pastor Mendoza and his congregation is being ignored because they belong to the not-so-vote-rich Assemblies of God? Would it be a different story if the church was Iglesia Ni Cristo?
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on June 25, 2014.