BY PET MELLIZA/THE BEEKEEPER
By 2015, Rep. Jerry Trenas and Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog tout, Iloilo City will be “premier” urban center, even “Queen City of the South”, its moniker that Cebu City took awaydecades back.
Trenas initially predicted it to 2010 that Iloilo will become “premier” but in his last month in office, he revised it to 2015 for the obvious reason that his only achievement in his 9-year stint, from 2001 through 2010, was demolish a functional city hall and bequeath to his successor an overpriced skeletal structure in its stead.
If we were to believe Trenas and Mabilog, Iloilo’s skyline by 2015 will be dotted by high rise buildings, commercial complexes, government centers, recreation parks, shopping malls, and all other grandeurs of a premier city.
Before jumping ecstatically, may I bring readers to a few moments of silence and ponder on the queries of a fellow Ilonggo who’s in vacation to the Philippines.
Why make so much fuzz on the premier city thing when you don’t even have traffic lights? he asks. All that Iloilo City streets have are hanging black boxes, skeletons of what used to be traffic lights that have conked out 10 years ago yet. In their stead, are humans in light blue uniforms directing traffic with little knowledge of how traffic flows in other junctions are faring.
In other cities like Cebu and Davao, traffic enforcers are on standby on roads observing how motorists obey the traffic lights and signs. They move only to apprehend violators or respond to incidents and accidents.
When I hear someone from city hall or the congressional office mouthing the premier city thing, my reaction is to tell him hold a minute and echo the balikbayan’s queries. Why treat premier cityhood like a religious mantra when your city does not even have a stable and efficient water system?
The towns of Igbaras, Miag-ao, Guimbal, Tigbauan and Passi City, all in Iloilo Province have their respective water systems which are the envy of Iloilo City, yet they don’t even crow about that. Water is a basic need in any community, much less in one that touts itself “premier city”. Iloilo City so far, is successful in ensuring that it will continue to come in trickles through the so-called public-private partnership (PPP) that makes potable water scarce and expensive.
March is “fire prevention month”, a month to raise public awareness on being vigilant to prevent fire or respond to one in progress. Before Mabilog and Trenas trumpet the dawn of the premier city, may I ask them to put their money where their mouth is: invest in fire hydrants.
Where are the fire hydrants that Iloilo City used to take pride of in the 50s and 60s? They are gone.
In case of fire, the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) has fire trucks on standby their tanks already filled with water. When city-based BFP trucks run out of water, new arrivals from the towns take over while private tankers stand by to replenish fire trucks which ran out of water.
When the conflagration drags and the private tankers themselves already used up their supply, the burning communities have to wait while their fire trucks re-load at a distant source because no hydrant is available nearby.
When we think of “mega” or “premier” city, let’s address first the basics that makes a community liveable, like cleanliness, safe and adequate water supply, and efficient traffic management. Iloilo City cannot even clean the Iloilo River which today is reputed as the country’s biggest garbage dump and septic tank after Pasig River.
Mabilog after his election in 2010, vowed to require establishments and residences along Iloilo River to install septic tanks to treat their liquid wastes before they exit to the river. There are at least 300 business and government edifices that directly dispose of their effluents to the body of water which is actually an arm of the sea.
Mabilog and his ilk are only regaling us. How can we build when 5-star hotels and become “premier city” our abattoir cannot even pass hygiene and safety standards that the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) till now still refuses to accredit.
Premier city, my foot!