‘Transforming Bacolod into a super City needs super people’

Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez delivers his second State of the City Address (Soca) at the Bacolod City Government Center (BCGC) grounds on July 3.
Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez delivers his second State of the City Address (Soca) at the Bacolod City Government Center (BCGC) grounds on July 3.

“Transforming Bacolod into a Super City needs Super People. But we do not need superpowers to be Super People, we just need the passion to serve, and the right values and dynamic behavior to innovate.”

This was stressed by Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo Abelardo Benitez as he delivered his second State of the City Address (Soca) at the Bacolod City Government Center (BCGC) grounds on July 3.

“They said change starts from within. That is why our first order of business when I assumed my post was to clean the house,” Benitez said.

He said the current administration has no ghost employees. The job order personnel were reporting every day.

“ Our employees now were reporting on time, and some of them were even taking overtime,” he added.

The mayor noted that those who exert effort were also given a reward and last Monday, they recognized the “extra milers” employees, who do beyond what is required or what is expected.

Benitez said last week, someone gave him a memorabilia of Old Bacolod.

“ Bacolod was beautiful back then like a jewel of the Visayas. Which was the reason why in 1938, we were created as a city,” he said.

He added that in the inaugural speech of the first mayor of Bacolod in 1938, former mayor Alfredo Montelibano Sr. said that the elevation to city status involves the duty of transforming the present state of the town of Bacolod.

“ This is a challenge to our civic conscience and our sense of duty. Now, there is another Alfredo who led to elevate Bacolod to a Super City. Our dream for Bacolod is rooted in history. Old Bacolod had been great. But we can be greater. We must aim higher,” Benitez stressed.

However, he said that to transform Bacolod into a Super City, they need innovation.

“ We need new ways to solve old problems. We must learn from history: cities that do not innovate, eventually collapse. We need a change in our culture of governance to address our growing needs and new threats,” he added. Benitez said he knows that change is hard. There will always be people who will oppose and resist change.

“ There are people who are trying and will keep trying to delay and derail our programs for Bacolod. But they will not succeed. We will keep our appointment with destiny. Whether you are with us or against us, we will succeed. The force of change is unstoppable,” he said.

Benitez said in his administration, the service is fast and efficient.“ Service delivery has never been more efficient,” he said.

Bacolod Comprehensive Health Program (BacCHP)

Benitez said in BacCHP, it’s now easy to get treatment at a private hospital. The beneficiaries only need to present the BacCHP card in any hospital then, the patient will be admitted immediately.

“ We have registered more than 100,000 members already and close to 5,000 cardholders have already availed of this service.

Burial

“ We now also expanded BacCHP assistance to cover burial expenses. We now have a memorandum of agreement with 11 funeral parlors,” Benitez said.

He said just like in BacCHP, the family of the deceased will go directly to the funeral homes.

Bayad Agad

“ We have also launched the “Bayad Agad” program to facilitate the release of financial assistance to the poor,” Benitez said.

He said the beneficiaries will not wait for a long time for processing; they can get their cash assistance on the day of their processing.  

Asenso Yuhum Housing

Benitez said housing is one of the centerpiece programs of their administration.

“We dream that all the families in Bacolod could have their own house. In the Super City, every family owns decent housing. Just like in other countries where homeownership rate is as high as 90 percent,” he said.

He added the construction of  Phase 1 sang Asenso Yuhum Residences in Barangay Vista Alegre is set to be completed and will be turned over to the beneficiaries,

“ We are not just building housing. We are building a community. In Asenso Yuhum Residences, they have a clubhouse, basketball court, park, and swimming pool,” Benitez said.

Strategic industries

Benitez said he also received several complaints about poor water and electricity services in the city.

“ I made it very clear: we want 24/7 uninterrupted water supply in all areas that they serve. In 2023, only 45 percent of covered households have 24-hour water supply. To make matters worse, this number further declined due to El Niño,” he said.

He added his administration quickly intervened. He called the Baciwa-PrimeWater in a water summit to increase the water supply. The latest data indicates this improvement. Now, we have record-high water production of 84 million liters per day (MLD), the highest in Bacolod's history.

By the end of 2024, Benitez said with new bulk water sources coming online, Baciwa-PrimeWater will provide a 24/7 water supply to 88 percent of covered households.

For electricity, he said he understands the frustration of many in the high electricity rate of Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco)

“ That is why I intervened and called the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to fast-track the approval of the Power Supply Agreement between Ceneco and Energy Development Corporation (EDC),” he added.

The mayor noted that this delay resulted in the spike in electricity prices in May and June, causing a tremendous burden to families and businesses in Bacolod.

Benitez said the electricity prices have dropped from P15 to 16 centavos per kilowatt in May, and this June, it’s only P12, 76 centavos per kilowatt.

“We welcome also the entry of Negros Electric and Power Corporation (NEPC) sa Bacolod. Their franchise is set to be approved, and its franchise bill has already been transmitted to the Office of the President. We anticipate significant investment in the modernization of our power distribution infrastructure, as promised by NEPC. We will hold you to your commitments,” he said.

Iconic infrastructure

Benitez said that they are now constructing more iconic buildings such as the legislative building, the Old City Hall, and the City Health Complex. All of which will become landmarks symbolic of Bacolod.

Tourism

“ Our Masskara Festival continues to draw crowds here and abroad. As we speak, Masskara dancers from Barangay Granada are in Milan, Italy to perform in the Sandiwa Fiesta Europa, organized by the Filipino community in Northern Italy,” Benitez said.

He said in total, tourist arrivals in 2023 reached 780,000, exceeding the number of tourists in 2022 by 22 percent, and contributing 15.2 billion pesos to the local economy. This only accounts for tourists staying in hotels.

Coordinated and integrated development

“ We foresee more investments coming into Bacolod with the enactment of Republic Act No. 12000, establishing the Negros Island Region (NIR). We have been dreaming of this for so long. We thank President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. for his support to NIR,” Benitez said.  

“ I want to take this opportunity to honor Governors Bitay Lacson, Lito Coscolluela, and Fred Marañon. They pushed for the NIR. Bacolod will certainly benefit from the establishment of NIR. It will bring government services closer to us,” he said.

Increasing revenues

“ Because of the changes we are doing, because of our efforts to ease doing business in Bacolod, investor confidence in Bacolod is high. New businesses are located in Bacolod – which means more revenues for the City Government, and more jobs for Bacolodnons,” Benitez said.

He said under his Administration, they have surpassed the collection in 2019, before the pandemic.

“ Based on data from the City Treasurer’s Office, in 2023, total revenue from local taxes, regulatory fees, and other charges reached 1.4 billion pesos, which is 500 million pesos higher than the collection in 2019. In 2024, we are expecting 1.7 billion in local revenues,” he added.

Master Plan

“ We want to make Bacolod the best place to live, work and play. We want to build a holistic environment for businesses and for people to thrive. To transform Bacolod into a Super City, we need the Master Plan,” Benitez said.

He said they engaged the services of an urban planner to craft the Master Plan for Bacolod, adding that part of the master plan is to develop the bioswales in the side of the road to absorb rainwater runoff, to mitigate flooding.

He added it’s also part of the master plan to develop the River Promenade in Mambulok and underground cabling.

“ We will reclaim the sidewalk and turn it into linear parks. The master plan will make Bacolod a truly global, modern, inclusive, and sustainable, Super City,” Benitez stressed.

“ The road to change is long. Our dream for Bacolod to become a Super City may still be far, but we can feel it already. Changing the political culture in Bacolod is not a sprint, but a marathon – or a relay,” he said.

He added: “ But if we go together, we go farther. They said if you want to go fast, go alone. But, if you want to go far, together. Our success will depend on how strong our partnership is – if we share the same vision, if we share the same values, and if we get our acts together. I cannot do it alone.” The mayor said that he would not stop until they’ve changed Bacolod.

“ In just two years, we already have proof of concept.  We already laid down the groundwork. We have planted the seeds. The state of the city is stronger than ever. But we need to sustain our momentum. Together, let us finish the job,” Benitez said./MAP.

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