(Transcript of The State of the City Address delivered by City Mayor Alfonso Casurra, April 2, 2009 at the City Auditorium)
I begin this year with a deep sense of hope and renewed purpose. Our city and our country is now at the crossroads of this global economic downturn, but we must move forward and preserve the gains we have sown through the years, with close community participation and cooperation.
City Mayor Casurra delivering the State of the City Address for 2009 during the regular session of the City Council.
I take pride therefore to report to all of you on the state of the city for the year 2008.
In 2008, despite the global economic downturn, the city was able to maintain to some degree, the targetted 40:60 ratio of local income against the nationally-sourced Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). The LGU share of IRA in 2008 totalled P275.792 million representing about 62% of the total income of the city for this year. The total IRA share include the monetized share of previously withheld portions amounting to more than P15.0 million. Local income on the other hand totalled P167.178 million, P9.4 million of which comes from borrowings and about P3.6 million as beginning year balance.
For the past five (5) years, our income increased at a rate of 13.73% per annum. From only P 285 million in 2004, it increased to more than P442 million last year. Between the years 2007 and 2008, our total income managed to increased slightly by 0.71%.
In the distribution of locally-generated income for 2008, Business Taxes garnered the highest share accounting for more than 30%, followed by income from economic enterprises at 21.33%, and service fees and business income by more than 15%. The share of real property taxes, the highest contributor in the previous fiscal year (30%) due to the collection of back taxes from Nonoc nickel refinery only accounts for 7.4% of the total income during this period.
TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY
With the successful implementation of the previous two (2) phases of the USAID and Asia Foundation-supported Transparent Accountable Governance (TAG) Project of the city since 2003, the year in review proved to be another banner implementation period in the city’s continuing effort to install reforms to curb red tape.
The TAG Phase 3, which began implementation in 2008 focused on three (3) areas of concern, namely: (1) Procedural Review and Reforms of the newly-established Citizens Assistance Center; (2) Human Resource Development and Management System enhancement, and (3) Local Economic Policy Reform initiative with emphasis on standardizing services information to the public through the Citizens Charter.
The existing participatory structures in the city government remained in-place and active in accordance with R.A. 7160 or the Local Government Code. The local special bodies such as the City Development Council, City School Board, City Health Board, the Peace and Order Council and the City Disaster Coordinating Council, reorganized in 2007 continue to perform its mandated functions with the required balance of representation and participation from the non-government sector.
The same has been maintained with the numerous special committees, councils and other entities, e.g. nutrition council, solid waste management board, urban development and housing council and others. The tripartite working structure between the LGU, the business sector and civil society organizations which was established as part of the TAG Project remained in place and functional.
The Sangguniang Panlungsod has for its part also adhered to enhancing people participation in governance during the conduct of various committee meetings and public hearings.
The office of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, under the leadership of Vice Mayor Rico Salvador A. Sering at the helm, remained steadfast and supportive of the overall development agenda of the city.
Based on the Executive-Legislative Agenda and the overall development plan of the city, a total of 300 resolutions and 13 ordinances were passed, together with 60 appropriation ordinances. Several public hearings were conducted, committee hearings and meetings in the pursuit of enabling greater community participation.
STRATEGIC PLANNING & PROJECT DEVELOPMENT
In line with their mandate, the CPDO was able to complete the preparation of the Annual Investment Plan 2009, the initial parceliary mapping component of the Comprehensive Land Use Plan covering (CLUP) two (2) urban barangays as part of the on-going CLUP updating, the city’s Socio Economic Profile 2007, and the City Accomplishment Report 2007, including the preparation of the State of the City Address and the State of Local Governance Report.
In coordination with the City DILG and the City Budget Office, the CPDO also facilitated and conducted a barangay planning and budgeting workshop for all newly-elected barangay officials January last year.
The project proposals prepared by the project development team of the city were favourably considered for implementation by various funding agencies/overseas development assistance (ODA) donors, accessing a total project amount of more than P45 million.
HUMAN RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT & MANAGEMENT
The city maintained its adherence to prescribed mandates in human resource management and development, in line with the requirements of the 2nd level accreditation from the Civil Service Commission in 2007.
2008 saw the series of workshops being conducted on the existing human resource management structures, functions, and even feedback surveys on the current pulse, issues and related concerns that need management action. Among the activities conducted in this regard was the conduct of workshops which tackled the review of the organizational and functional structures of the LGU, conduct of needs assessment, orientation on the Office Performance Evaluation System (OPES), and the refresher seminar on Basic Customer Service Skills for 60 front line personnel of the city. Formulation of standard operational procedures for the Citizens Assistance Center was also completed last August .
In coordination with the City DILG, other line agencies, and civil society organizations, the city also facilitated the conduct of the Systems Capacity on Local Governance Survey (SCALOGS), which resulted to the formulation of the City’s Capacity Development Plan.
To further enhance efficiency and accountability among our employees, the city beginning January 2008 installed biometrics fingerprint readers for the attendance and leaves monitoring system of our regular employees.
The processing of business permits under the one-stop shop set-up during the renewal period remained to be kept in under two (2) hours. Such effort is in line with sustaining the reforms initiated under the TAG Project. This process was further boosted with the operationalization of the computerized Business Tax Assessment and Collection System (BTACS) which was installed last April 2008 and the Real Property Tax Assessment and Collection System (RTACS) in 2006.
The frontline revenue generating services of the city is now enjoying the benefits of automated processing. These two (2) priority services will be elevated this year 2009 to acquire ISO Certification in terms of Quality Management System with the technical assistance provided by the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP).
As an offshot of the continued involvement of the local business sector and civil society organizations in improving service standards in the LGU, the Surigao Chamber of Commerce and Industry was awarded as 2008 Most Outstanding Chamber in Mindanao during the 34th Philippine Business Conference.
At the end of this month we would be able to publish and make available to the public, the City of Surigao Citizens Charter. Said charter spells in utmost but brief details the flow of service processes in all the departments catering to basic government services.
HEALTH & NUTRITION
The city government sustained its delivery of quality health care to the public in the mainland and island barangays through the effective collaboration of the city’s skilled health personnel with community volunteers and the untiring support of civil society.
The creation of the Barangay Luna Health Station into a new Health District and the full operation of the Birthing Home in the Hikdop Islands provided greater accessibility to health services for residents, particularly children and pregnant and lactating women, in the far-flung barangays. In 2008, the New Hikdop Island Birthing Home in Brgy. Buenavista catered to 27 deliveries and made three (3) referrals.
Through the vigilance of the City Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (CESU) of the City Health Office, potential outbreak of diseases was successfully prevented. Dengue cases decreased from a total of 226 in 2007 to 100 in 2008. We were able to sustain the city as a Malaria Free zone. Quick responses were made to control the Filariasis infection among the indigenous people in Sitio Tagbasingan, Brgy. Mat-i through mass drug administration, distribution of mosquito nets to households and intensified information drive to the community. The CESU also contained the melamine scare by conducting inspections in local department stores to ensure that banned dairy products were not sold to the public.
City sanitation officers inspected food and non-food establishments and conducted a food handlers class to prevent health related problems among the consuming public. For 2008, health certificates were issued to 3,448 food establishments and 4,102 non-food establishments while sanitary permits were issued to a total of 3,552 establishments. An island campaign on toilet construction and the issuance of sanitary permits and health certificates were also undertaken. Because of these initiatives, the City of Surigao was awarded 2nd runner-up overall in the 2008 National Search for Barangay Best Sanitation Practices, with three (3) barangays (Poctoy, Punta Bilar and San Isidro) reaping the 2nd and 3rd honors under the urban and rural categories.
The City of Surigao was a recipient of the 2008 Most Outstanding Implementor in the Renal Disease Control Program (REDCOP) Award given by the National Kidney and Transplant Institute. This was made possible by the active involvement of the REDCOP coalition in the conduct of urinalysis screening in public schools and other establishments, and the continuous advocacy on healthy lifestyle and the prevention of kidney disease. A health-based organization, the Fruitful Harvest Ministries, supported this endeavor by providing medicines for clients with urinary tract infections.
Fighting malnutrition especially among children has always been one of the major challenges of the local government. Through the effective collaboration between the city government and non-government organizations, significant gains were achieved during the year. Supplemental Feeding was intensified through the Nourish the Children Project which provided vitameals to 495 pre-school children in seven (7) critical barangays. The Fruitful Harvest Ministry sustained its Sandi Chester Feeding program which benefited 110 pre-school children in three (3) barangays. As a sustainability measure to the feeding program, a nutrition information and education activity – the “Pabasa sa Nutrisyon”- was conducted in 18 barangays educating 479 mothers. Vitamin A supplementations were distributed to 6-71 month- preschool children both routine & high risk groups through the Garantisadong Pambata. In effect, the prevalence rate of below normal low (BNL) and below normal very low (BNVL) among pre-schoolers was reduced to 9.36% from 12.85% in 2007. Mrs. Rosario Ramirez, was adjuged as the 2008 Most Outstanding Barangay Nutrition Scholar in Caraga Region.
Similarly, the DepEd Surigao City Division office strived to improve the nutritional status of school children by giving breakfast feedings to below normal pupils in grades 1 and 2. The Sta. Josefa Feeding Project of the Servants of Jesus of Charity assisted the division by undertaking a 6-month feeding program at the Sabang Elementary School in Barangay Sabang and Emerico Borja Elementary School in Barangay Trinidad. In addition, all 65 elementary schools and 17 secondary schools in the division established school vegetable gardens to inculcate among the studentry the values of good health, nutrition, industry and love for labor. The SAPAGKAT/Gulayan sa Paaralan (GPP) program, is tied up with the “Programang Agrikultura Para sa Masa” of the Department of Agriculture.
The issue on mental health was given more focus with the creation of the City Mental Health Committee and the forging of linkages with the Caraga Regional Hospital and private organizations. Starjed Microfinance, Inc. donated a monthly cash assistance of P5,000 for the purchase of oral medications for mental patients.
In 2008, the city government invested over P12 million pesos under the Special Education fund to provide for the honorarium of 45 elementary and 79 secondary school board teachers, thus addressing to a big extent the shortage of teachers in the division. Moreover, we spent P2.2 million under the general fund to undertake 97 projects relating to construction, repair and rehabilitation of public school buildings.
The Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry donated a total of 12 classrooms in four (4) elementary schools and two (2) high schools, with a total value of over P2 million.
Through the City Scholarship Program, some 350 poor but deserving students were able to enroll in the different technical-vocational institutions and higher education learning institutions in the city. The city invested close to P1.3 million to ensure that poverty will not become an obstacle to the children’s quest for higher education. For school year 2007 – 2008, 79 scholars finished their education, five (5) of whom graduated cum laude. One (1) scholar successfully passed the licensure examination for nurses.
In addition, educational assistance was extended to 85 children of parolees and probationers, including two (2) Juveniles in Conflict with the Law (JICL) in the form of school bags, notebooks, writing pads, pencil and crayons. The League of Intimate Services Oriented, Inc. (LISO), a partner non-government organization, also assisted the city government in upholding children’s right to development by assisting some 2,300 of its registered elementary and high school children and 100 in college, in their tuition fees and school uniforms. The Fruitful Harvest Ministry likewise distributed school supplies to 251 elementary school children and 66 day care children in Barangay Mat-i.
With the integration of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in basic education, many schools in the city division acquired computer units and are engaging in e-learning lessons. The Rizal National High School (RNHS) was a recipient of 21 computer units with server, printer and scanner from Intel Education Philippines.
Furthermore, INTEL Teach Trainings on Computer and Internet Literacy and Skills for Success were conducted for students and teachers of RNHS and the Caraga Regional Science High School.
Under the Kidsmart Early Childhood Learning Program, the Surigao City Pilot School and Capalayan Elementary School were recipients of the “Young Explorer”– a computer loaded with award-winning educational software and housed in a colorful children’s desk furniture. This was made possible through the donation from the Philex Lascogon Mining Corporation. Demonstration lessons using the center-based approach were conducted by trained teachers, and this was one of the programs highlighted during the Accreditation Program for Public Elementary Schools (APPES). In 2008, three (3) schools in the division qualified for level I accreditation – the Mariano Espina Memorial Central Elementary School, Surigao City Pilot School and B. Vasquez Elementary School.
A new Speech Laboratory Equipment with 30 booths and Table Control Set and complete electronic facilities were installed at the Surigao City National High School. These equipments, valued at P1million was provided by the Department of Education and was expected to enhance the implementation of the National English Proficiency Program of the entire division.
2008 was a banner year for the Surigao City Division in Alternative Learning Systems (ALS). With the regular conduct of community-based Basic Literacy cum livelihood classes to indigenous communities, particularly the Badjaos, and Mamanuas and extension of non-formal classes to parolees and probationers and to the inmates of the city jail, the city government was cited as 1st Runner up in the Most Outstanding LGU- component city category, National Literacy Awards. Furthermore, Ms. Aniana Ejoc, the ALS coordinator of District IV received the 2nd place award in the National Search for the Best ALS Coordinator. Mr. Hermiette F. Lerog, another ALS mobile teacher in District I was privileged to be a participant in the International Study Tour and Fellowship for ALS Field Implementers in Malaysia.
In the area of technical-vocational education, the city government sustained its Livelihood Training and Productivity Program through the operation of the Livelihood Training and Productivity Center in Barangay Luna. Some 1,109 trainees in three batches were able to complete short term technical-vocational courses, with Basic Computer Education posting the most number of enrollees. 49 of these graduates were assessed and certified.
The Surigao Norte College of Arts and Trades (SNCAT) being the only accredited training center for Slaughtering in Mindanao entered into a memorandum of agreement with the City Slaughterhouse to be used in the accreditation requirements relative to training, structure, equipment, tools and water supply. For the year 2008, 134 trainees graduated from this training and were duly certified. The high demand for this particular skill overseas has attracted trainees from all over Mindanao.
We sustained the operations of the only Madrasah school in Caraga region where children of our Muslim brothers acquire basic elementary education.
The City of Surigao maintained its status as Regional winner in the 2008 Search for Child Friendly Cities and Municipalities conducted by the Regional Council for the Welfare of Children (RCWC). This was a concrete testimony of the city’s continuing efforts to sustain an environment where children grow and develop their full potential.
4,055 pre-school children were recognized in the 82 day care centers and supervised neighborhood plays. The city government upgraded the provision of day care services according to the standards set forth in the Early Childhood Care and Development Act. 12 projects involving the repair and improvement of day care centers were undertaken during the year with a total cost of P.5 million. The city government also sustained a special type of day care service for special children called the “Tawag Center”. This facility was established by the City Council for the Protection of Children and the Federation of Associations of Surigao City Senior citizens (FASCSCI) and has served 18 children since its inception in 2006.
Through the continued operation of the Residential Center for Street Children in Barangay Anomar, four (4) orphans, two (2) maltreated children and six (6) abandoned and neglected children were provided with appropriate programs and services for their rehabilitation and development. Three (3) of these children were eventually reintegrated to their families.
The Crisis Center for Women and Children effectively catered to 119 children in conflict with the law (CICL), 26 children who were victims of abuse, three (3) victims of trafficking and 39 women victims of violence. Most of the clients were provided with temporary shelter, food/transportation/medical assistance. Women and children victims of trafficking were referred to a halfway house called the “Bahay Silungan sa Daungan”, where they received center-based protective services. This facility is located strategically at the Lipata Ferry Terminal, and its operation is jointly undertaken by the Philippine Ports Authority and the Visayan Forum Foundation, Inc.
One of the most important accomplishments in 2008 was the signing of a memorandum of agreement between the city government and the Loving Presence Foundation, Inc. (LPFI) in the undertaking of the community-based rehabilitation program for persons with disabilities. Under the agreement, the LPFI will assist in mobilizing resources for community organization, physical restoration, advocacy and livelihood of PWDs and their families. An orientation seminar was conducted to barangay health workers on the registration of PWDs and training to health personnel on Primary Eye Care. During the celebration of the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Week, the LPFI screened over 110 clients for visual and hearing impairments and conducted a urinalysis and dental examination for pupils of the special education class at Mariano Espina Memorial Central Elementary School.
About 600 individuals availed of financial assistance under the Integrated Social Development Assistance Program (ISDAP) to cover medical, burial and transportation expenses. Also, more than P2 million in mortuary aid was provided to 149 families under the Federation Mortuary Assistance System. 500 senior citizens received from the National Government, facilitated by the Office of the City Mayor, a cash subsidy of P500 through the “Katas ng VAT: Tulong Para kay Lolo at Lola” project.
More than 300 pairs of new slippers were donated by three civic organizations – the Barkadahan, Rotary Club of Central Surigao and the REACT Miners group in line with their “Pamasko” project. The city mayor distributed the slippers and additional grocery items as Christmas gifts to the indigenous children, women and men in Sitio Tagbasingan and to the residents of the remote Sitio File, in Barangay Mat-i.
The city government provided security of tenure to disadvantaged households by facilitating the transfer of titles to the beneficiaries of the Canlanipa Housing project and assisting the Couples for Christ (CFC) in evaluating potential beneficiaries for their Gawad Kalinga housing project site in Sitio Looc, Barangay Luna. During the year, the CFC provided shelter to very poor households, including those whose homes were damaged by heavy rains and landslides.
In line with the continuing implementation of the Urban Renewal program, the city government closely monitored structures located along shorelines and other identified danger zones. Illegal structures were demolished in accordance with RA 7279 to prevent the proliferation of informal settlers. Several areas were cleared to pave the way for the establishment of access roads and other government projects, notably, the Surigao City Boulevard Development Project.
Income derived from urban development and housing totalled P1.19 million in 2008.
PEACE, SECURITY & DISASTER MANAGEMENT
The city registered a crime volume numbering a total of 92, which represented a 9% decline compared to the previous year. Of this, 60% were index crimes and 40% were non-index crimes. Crime solution efficiency posted high at 89% as a result of the combined efforts of the police, the barangay tanods, other law enforcement units and the community. Average crime rate in 2008 was at 69 per 100,000 population.
The Surigao City Fire Station with the active participation of the Filipino-Chinese Volunteer Fire Brigade on the other hand, effectively contained fire incidents in the city. Only 18 fire incidents occurred during the year, with a total estimated damage of P0.9 million. The city government, with the Surigao Metropolitan Water District (SMWD) as the project implementor, installed four (4) new fire hydrants and procured a 14,000-gallon water tanker to augment our fire-fighting capabilities.
Various rehabilitation programs were effected for the well-being of the 116 inmates at the Surigao City Jail, including medical and dental examinations, sports activities, spiritual seminars and basic literacy classes. Likewise, the City Parole and Probation Office established innovative and financially feasible projects for the moral, spiritual and economic upliftment of probationers, parolees, pardonees, and first-time minor drug offenders utilizing available community resources.
For two consecutive years, the 2007 and 2008 Best City Disaster Coordinating Council Award in Caraga Region was conferred to the city for having established a disaster management operations center, manned 24/7 by trained government emergency responders – the 32-man Quick Action Response Team (QART) – and equipped with standard disaster/emergency equipment and facilities. The QART proved to be invaluable in all aspects of disaster preparedness, evacuation, recovery and rehabilitation. In 2008 the team made a total of 2,410 emergency responses equivalent to seven (7) calls a day, consisting mostly of emergency medical cases, vehicular accidents, and transport of serious patients to the cities of Butuan, Cagayan de Oro or Davao, thus saving lives in the process. The city government initiated the enforcement of a public warning system through a series of siren blasts to give information on the alert level during the occurrence of typhoons or heavy rains.
We are grateful with the donation of the emergency equipments and supplies from the World Outreach Mission Foundation through John and Amy Pike and Turning Point Ministries headed by Pastor Michael Villamor.
The city government used P3.7 million from its own calamity funds and another P5 million under the PGMA calamity fund to undertake relief operations and implement several infrastructure projects involving repair and rehabilitation of roads, bridges, irrigation systems, causeways and pre-disaster mitigation projects such as slope protection.
SPORTS DEVELOPMENT & RECREATION
For the 7th consecutive year, the Mayor’s Cup Inter-School Sports Mini Olympics was conducted with 16 featured sports events, which were aligned to the requirements of the Department of Education. The said event was widely participated by all levels in the public and private schools. The city government also sponsored the 5th Summer Sports Clinic in Basketball. There were 94 participants from the elementary and secondary levels who availed of this training and received free balls and t-shirts.
In line with their campaign to promote equal opportunities for women in sports, the Philippine Sports Commission teamed up with the city government and the city division office to undertake a free sports clinic for all trainers, coaches, and PESS coordinators and hold an all-female competition in non-traditional sports events such as basketball, volleyball, swimming and marathon. The grand awarding ceremony was graced by officials from the commission, who distributed special PSC medals and trophies to the victorious women athletes.
On the other hand, the annual city sports fest was held to encourage city government employees to indulge in wholesome physical activities and adopt healthy lifestyles. Aptly dubbed as “Larong Pinoy”, the activity featured traditional Pilipino games, in addition to the usual basketball and volleyball games. A cheerdance competition among the different units highlighted the opening of the sportsfest.
AGRICULTURE & FISHERIES DEVELOPMENT
Through the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) program, certified seeds and hybrid bio-seeds were distributed under the 50/50 payment scheme, and a total of 939 bags were extended on a first come first served basis. This year’s total number of bags of palay seeds distributed increased by 60 percent as compared to in 2007. Farm inputs, such as foliar fertilizer and Bio-N were also provided as support to areas planted with certified/hybrid seeds. As a result, these areas posted a 55.7% higher average production at 95 cavans/hectare compared to the 61 cavans/ha average of areas planted to regular seeds of different varieties. Total rice production in 2008 was 34,116.2 metric tons.
Mango was one of the gainers among the high value crops in 2008 with an output increase of 98.6 metric tons. The potential of cassava was also given focus, with the entry of San Miguel Corporation as a contract buyer. The establishment of the cassava processing facility in Brgy. Sukailang has been pursued by the Surigao City Cassava Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, through a P4.8 million grant from the government of Spain. Furthermore, the Technology Demonstration Center for High Value Crops Processing promoted value adding activity for viable agricultural products and provided additional income for women and farmers.
The fishery sector continued to exhibit positive increase in production with the municipal marine fishery accounting for 10,914.22 metric tons or 80.57% of the total production of 13,544.97 metric tons. Commercial fishery attained a production of 2,497.85 metric tons due to the increased numbers of more efficient fishing vessels and gear. Municipal inland fishery rebounded from last year’s short performance to contribute 132.90 metric tons production.
The Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources (BFAR) assisted the local government through the distribution of Tilapia/Carp and Bangus fingerlings to 17 inland-pond operators and 3 coastal pond owners. The mariculture park established in Brgy. Nabago and the marine fish sanctuaries in Brgys. San Isidro and Day-asan contributed further to the positive performance of the fisheries sector.
Livelihood assistance for marginal farmers was extended through the livestock dispersal and redispersal program. Cattle, goats and piglets were dispersed in different barangays in support to the Accelerated Hunger Mitigation Program of the Department of Agriculture. In addition, the city government availed of 15 heads of Murrah Buffaloes from the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) in the City Science of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. Male Breeders were dispersed to the different barangays in order to upgrade the local breeds and to increase production.
Due to the increasing volume of animals slaughtered, the city government purchased one (1) unit of Meat Delivery Van which has an animal capacity of 80 heads of hogs and 12 heads of large animals. This has greatly improved the delivery time of meat from the slaughterhouse to the public market.
EMPLOYMENT, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
& INVESTMENT PROMOTIONS
A total of 3,374 business establishments were registered in 2008 reflecting a 14 percent increase over the previous year. Our efforts in creating an environment conducive to doing business may have contributed well in this increase, although the amount of total investments recorded for the year, reduced by 42% owing to the global economic downturn.
While a reduction in the amount of investments has been felt, it is worth noting that the number of jobs generated increase by 20% from 2,239 in 2007 to 2,683 in 2008. Such was realized with the increased employment in the services and manufacturing sector. The LGU through the Public Employment Service Office (PESO), assisted no less than 13 licensed recruitments agencies and were able to refer 108 applicants for overseas employment. 25 applicants were deployed overseas and another 24 were placed for local employment. Continued implementation of the Summer Program for Employment of Students (SPES) also benefitted 138 students.
The Medium and Small Scale Industries Coordinated Action Program (MASICAP) MSME Development Foundation, Inc., a non-government organization, greatly assisted micro, small and medium entrepreneurs in the preparation of project feasibility studies and other pertinent loan documents, free of charge. The MASICAP Team was able to assist 26 projects for loan/grant applications with a total cost of P45,741,970.85 and aggregate loan/grant of P18,643,683.50.
Sustained image building activities and our partnership with the private sector in promoting a business-friendly environment continue to provide considerable gains. For three (3) consecutive biennial ranking periods from 2003, 2005 and 2007, our city continue to be among the top performing most competitive small city in the country in the Philippine Cities Competitiveness Ranking Project of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center.
For the last three (3) years we were recognized as among the most business-friendly cities in the country and this was made possible by pushing further continuing reforms and improvement in our front line services with the active cooperation of the local business sector and civil society organizations.
It should be worth mentioning that our city has already achieve a certain level of visibility both in the national and international scale. We hosted the visits of no less than two (2) high level dignitaries from G8 countries: Her Brittanic Majesty’s Ambassador Peter Beckingham of the United Kingdom last July 2008 and His Excellency Robert Desjardins, the Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines last January of this year. The Papal Nuncio, the Ambassador of the City State of Vatican to the Philippines also visited our city last December, during the Centennial Celebration of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.
Tourist arrivals reached an all time high of 105,814 in 2008. The figures surpassed annual records of tourist arrivals in the last five (5) years from 2003 to 2007. This significant increase was attributed to the stable peace and order situation, improved tourism-related services and the aggressive promotional and marketing activities of the city government.
Through our collective effort, we were able to restore the availability of direct flights to and from Metro Manila and Cebu City which greatly contributed to the upsurge in tourist traffic.
The tourism industry generated a total of 1,763 jobs in 2007 while about 1,907 persons were employed in various tourism related establishments in 2008, reflecting an 8 percent increase. Tour operators, travel agencies as well as transport services contributed to the increase in jobs and employment.
The city government continued to provide support to sustain the celebration of annual events and traditional festivities. Among these were the “Suroy sa Surigao”; the Food Festival and Exhibit; the Bonok-Bonok Maradjaw Karajaw Festival; and the “Tilaw sa Pagkaong Surigaonon”. This Food Festival and Exhibit gained 2nd Place Honors as the city’s official entry to the 3rd ATOP Best Tourism Practices Award – Culture and Arts Category. The said event earned national attention not only because of the promotional mileage that it provided to the tourism sector, but also because the event provided an opportunity for the Surigaonons to showcase their culinary expertise and skills in basic restaurant services.
In 2008, we also saw the election of our own tourism officer as the National President of the Association of Tourism Officers of the Philippines (ATOP).
NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
In line with our thrust of protecting and preserving the environment and natural resources, the city government, through the Environment and Natural Resources Office coordinated with the academe in the conduct of massive clean-ups within the coastlines of Barangay Sabang, San Juan, Taft and Canlanipa. The city also initiated various mangrove planting activities in Barangay Sabang, Balibayon and Orok, in collaboration with the CENRO, PENRO, MGB, academe and non-government organizations.
The Mangrove Restoration Projects in Barangay Day-asan, Orok, San-Isidro, Nabago and Cabongbongan, which were funded by the Government of Japan under the NEDA-KR2 Program, were successfully turned-over to the barangay beneficiaries in October 2008. About 1.2 hectares of mangrove plantation per barangay were turned-over for its maintenance and sustainability.
Another project funded under the NEDA-KR2, the 50-hectare Reforestation Project at Parang-Parang Watershed, Barangay Mabini, was also formally turned-over to the Surigao Metropolitan Water District. The SMWD was tasked to maintain the planted 42,500 mahogany seedlings and 2,000 mango seedlings, as well as the nursery house and four (4) fire-watch towers.
WASTE MANAGEMENT & POLLUTION CONTROL
The construction of the Waste Treatment Facility, our banner project for solid waste management continued its construction during the year. Its over-all physical accomplishment at the end of 2008 was pegged at 86.62%.
The facility shall, in the long term, address the management of solid wastes not only in the urban barangays but in the entire 31 mainland barangays in the city, including the closure of the existing controlled dumpsite in compliance to RA 9003. In addition, the segregation, recovery and recycling of useful materials from the landfill shall be enhanced, and the conversion of biodegradable wastes into soil products shall be introduced at a larger scale.
The continued operation of the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) at Canlanipa Homes sustained the reduced volume of garbage being disposed at the controlled dumpsite.
Several orientation-seminars/lectures on ecological solid waste management were conducted from the level of schools, hospitals, business establishments, private entities/organizations, government offices to the puroks and households.
The massive information drive particularly at the school level gave birth to the launching of “Brigada Basura Paglimpyu sa Ciudad Ta”, a school-based solid waste management initiative of eleven (11) public elementary and high schools in the City of Surigao advocating for the waste-segregation-at-source system; and making recyclable wastes as a source of an extra fund to augment some school projects. This initiative empowers the student leaders to oversee the proper ecological waste management in their respective schools.
2009 and ONWARDS
My dear Surigaonons, the accomplishments and the gains we have sustained will forever leave a mark in the history of our city. With the one year left for this administration to take the helm of our city’s development, we have planned out and set the following targets for 2009 and beyond:
The completion of the first phase development of the City Boulevard. Promenade development of the seaside shall be continued, as well as the continuing promotion of prospective investments in the area.
Completion and operation of the Surigao Waste Treatment Facility. This is the banner project of my administration for solid waste management and the first one that will eventually operate in Mindanao, in accordance with internationally accepted standards.
1st Phase development of the long-awaited City Public Cemetery. The necessity to relocate the overly congested existing public cemetery need not be further stressed and has long been overdue.
ISO 9001 Certification for Quality Management System of our primary revenue generating functions like the Business Permits and Licensing System and Real Property Tax Administration. Such move for ISO accreditation is our strategic initiative to further institutionalize the gains we have achieved in reforming the said systems under the TAG Project.
The swift passage of a Reward System for persons who can provide the needed information leading to the arrest of suspects who are engaged in all kinds of illegal activities from kidnapping, illegal drugs, theft and robbery, which has taunted the otherwise peaceful image of the city.
The construction of the Regional Drug Rehabilitation Center in Barangay Anomar funded by the Department of Health.
The installation of Solar Power Units to the island barangays including the street lights with funds coming from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
My term as your City Mayor is about to end. And I always feel that it is like finishing a book’s chapter I have always yearned to read. Some of the best moments in my life happened while serving as your City Mayor. These are the moments I felt so cared, so protected and so blessed by the Almighty beyond description. These are always the moments when all the inequities in this world were shrouded by the love of the people around me. These were the moments when I felt that our beautiful city is after all a better place to live in. And of course, these are the moments I will be eternally grateful.
Ending such a wonderful term fills me with nostalgia, but this is the only way I can begin another chapter and hopefully more chapters that God has designed for me. It is the only way I can collect more memories. It is the only way I can share more of myself with others. It is the only way to have a deeper understanding of life. It is the only way I can fulfill the grand purpose that God has assigned to me from the day I was born.
Everything about the future is uncertain. But one thing is for sure. God had already arranged all our tomorrows. We just have to trust Him as He leads.
And as I end, we affirm our commitment to sustain the gains we have achieved so far, even as we move on to the next chapter of our city. We assure you that we will direct our strong political will, our energy, our minds and hearts towards the greater good of our city and the Surigaonons, under the greatest blessings of the Almighty.
God Bless My Beloved Surigao.
Marajaw na hapon dijo tanan.