December 30, 2017 marked the 17th Cityhood Anniversary of Balanga. With a massive crowd that filled up Plaza Mayor, City Mayor Francis Anthony S. Garcia delivered his second State of the City Address (SOCA) to Balangueños.
The local chief executive once again, presented a development report on 2017.
“It is an opportune time for all of us to look back at what we have so far achieved, as well as to look ahead to what awaits our city in the coming year,” Mayor Garcia said.
TOWARDS UNIVERSITY TOWN
According to Mayor Francis, education had been, and still is, the guiding star of the current administration. All efforts of the city to be a peaceful place that puts high premium on health, family and education have direct impact in its goal of becoming a University Town.
As Balanga city gets closer to its vision, series of programs to further develop educational capabilities and technological comprehension has primed Balangueños to become highly literate in these areas.
Numerous students benefited from these programs with the Mayor valuing the University Town Summit (convention for college students); Education Summit (convention for teachers and selected parents); Educhild (series of seminars for daycare parents); Project Duke (learning program for out-of-school youth); BatangSining(youth summer program to enhance the creative side); and tutorial sessions and book reading clubs at the City Library as among the more noteworthy ones.
The city government has also embarked in setting up Barangay Learning Hubs (BLH) and School Learning Hubs (SLH) –Mayor Francis’ brainchild program. These hubs provide free computer access to all who would like to advance their knowledge and education. To date, nine (9) BLH’s and four (4) SLH’s are already operating. Ten (10) more additional SLH’s and at least two (2) additional BLH’s are set to open in January 2018 alone. Though fewer in number, SLH’s have far more computers housed within, with some 300 computer units between the current SLH’s now operating. Meanwhile, BLH’s are also targeted to be set up in the city’s twenty-five (25) barangays for this year.
Because of continued support and intensified programs for education that have served to guide Balanga’s vision, the city has been awarded “Hall of Fame Award for Outstanding Government Unit – Component City Category.”
“This is a confirmation that our work in education has reached such a degree of quality that it is now being recognized in the country. Underlying our efforts in education is to provide employment to city residents,” Mayor Francis emphasized.
ON HEALTH AND A GREENER CITY
2017 had been a rollercoaster year for health and agriculture. Since the outbreak of the Dengvaxia issue, the City Health Office has implemented daily monitoring of vaccinated children. On the bright side, dengue cases in 2017 had been only 213 compared to 489 in 2016.
Among the many recognitions on health bestowed upon the city this year, the most notable would be the Outstanding Healthy Lifestyle Advocacy Award, the first in the history of the Philippines. Also, the fight against smoking continues earning for the city the award of Most Innovative Local Government Unit (LGU) in Tobacco Control Program. Through the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, the serious implementation of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act was conducted which resulted in a 65 percent waste diversion.
Meanwhile, with the strict application of the Market Code, income of the Public Market has steadily risen through the years. It is also one of the cleanest across country, attracting visitors to witness and study its operation.
Despite the influx of big investors and individuals desiring to put up business in our city, the agriculture and fishery sectors have not been sidelined. Php 44.4 million coming from the Department of Agriculture (DA) was used for various farming projects which included farm-to-market roads, concreting of canal, impounding dams and advanced agricultural equipment. ICT equipment were also handed over to farmers.
On fishery development, the city subsidized Php 5,696,250 to 1,282 fisher folks aimed primarily to raise their catches. With help from City Agriculture Office, Office of the Provincial Agriculturist and Department of Agriculture, COB garnered the following awards: Regional Winner for Best Organic Agriculture Demonstration Farm, Regional Winner for Best Organic Trading Post, and National Winner for Gawad Saka’s Best Barangay Food Terminal.
CITY GOVERNMENT’S ALLIANCE
Balanga City is one of the safest cities in the country. Thanks to the collaboration between the Public Safety Office and the barangays. Radio patrol groups actively report on various city incidents. CCTV footage has been instrumental in the speedy response to emergencies by persons in authority and in solving crime incidents. Traffic rules and pertinent ordinances are strictly implemented with violators educated through rendering of community service.
Performance Governance System (PGS) is a management tool the city has used since 2008 to improve its services. Pocket parks and LED kiosks along capitol Drive and City Hall lobby have been put up. Free wifi and other innovations have also been provided. Aside from these IT-related programs and projects, however, for their part, city government employees have initiated projects aligned with the city’s vision of becoming a University Town, The combined effort of the city government and its employees has contributed to COB being granted PGS Institutionalized status, winning for it the Gold Trailblazer Award, the only city that has so far won such.
Among the other awards so far obtained by the city were the Seal of Good Local Governance for three straight years; Palladium Balanced Scorecard Hall of Fame for Executive Strategy (March); Rank 1- City Category in the 2017 Regional Level- Environmental Compliance Audit given by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
All achievements would not have been possible without the collaboration and cooperation of city departments. Mayor Francis also recognized the efforts of Governor Albert S. Garcia and Congressman Jose Enrique S. Garcia who attended his speech to attract entities and individuals to set up business in the province, paving the way for City of Balanga to show what it has to offer.
Also present in SOCA were Mayor’s Wife Raquel Garcia, other members of the family, the entire Sangguniang Panglungsod led by Vice-Mayor Vianca Lita V. Gozon, city department heads and employees and private sector representatives. By Cyrus Dela Cruz and Kalvin Gerald S. Orgasan