Armed with a dogged determination and unmatched energy to revive Iloilo’s place in history as the “Queen City of the South,” Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog has always believed that his beloved hometown can become a highly urbanized premier city by year 2015.
Reasons abound for his supreme confidence.
He has succeeded in making Iloilo City a banking hub in Western Visayas. According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the city has the most number of banking and financing institutions in the region.
Iloilo is also dubbed the “university city.” Mabilog said there are more than 10 universities in the area, which produce about 20,000 college graduates each year. “All these 10 universities and state colleges have been existing for more than a century,” he said.
Mabilog managed to transform the city’s laid-back character and made it more aggressive in the pursuit of his trademark womb-to-tomb public service.
“From the time the child is in the womb, the local government provides a socialized program on maternity, pre-natal clinics, vitamins and immunizations for the baby. Then when the child goes to school, there’s day care, nursery, elementary, high school and college education. We also provide mass weddings and support the jobless. The underprivileged are given monthly financial support. We provide free housing, seed money and trainings for livelihood. When the people grow old, the city government gives them allowances, and even when they die, they get free embalming, free coffin and free church services,” he elaborated.
Mabilog said the satisfaction level is higher in Iloilo city because of all these.
Then, there is the forever-changing city landscape. Iloilo is now home to big businesses like the Ayala Group of Companies, Injap Properties, Megaworld, Gaisano Capital, and SM City. Also new to the city’s infrastructures are the Iloilo City Community College, Iloilo City Hospital, the soon-to-be completed Iloilo Business Park, Uptown Residences and Diversion 21 Hotel.
Mabilog wanted to complement improvements of the past decade like the new airport, flood-control measures and bridges. Other developments within the city include the construction of the roll-on-roll-off and fast craft wharves near the mouth of the Iloilo River.
But for locals and tourists alike, the best urban improvement in Iloilo is the Esplanade, which showcases Iloilo River, now one of the cleanest rivers in the country. Mabilog had to reach out to the national leadership and private entrepreneurs to undertake this multi-million-peso resuscitation and facelift of the once murky waters.
According to the energetic and youthful mayor, the 1.2 km-Esplanade is now a haven for joggers and walkers. It is now an entertainment and tourism destination in itself, aside from being a transportation artery of the city. Faye Joanna Jainga, local economic and investments promotion officer, said they plan to add a river cruise, cultural and food tour at the Esplanade.
The city government is also building the modern Iloilo Convention Center costing P450 million sourced from the national government. Construction of the convention center is timely since Iloilo City has been chosen as the site of two high-level ministerial meetings during the 2015 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) conference to be hosted by the Philippine government and participated in by 21 countries in Asia and the Pacific rim.
An estimated 700 delegates will participate in the Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting to be held from Sept. 21 to 25, 2015, in Iloilo City. The city will also host 900 delegates of the Food Security Week meeting tentatively slated on Sept. 28 to Oct. 6, 2015.
Meanwhile, Mabilog was cited by President Benigno Aquino III during his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 28, as one of a new breed of emerging dynamic leaders. The President praised Mabilog, a finalist in the World Mayor Award. The Iloilo chief executive is the only mayor in the Philippines, and one of two in Southeast Asia, to be included among the top 25 finalists of the international award.
Established in 2003 by the City Mayors Foundation, the World Mayor Project is awarded every two years to a mayor who has made outstanding contributions to his or her community and has developed a vision for urban living and working that is relevant to cities across the world.
The award encourages city leaders from across the world to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to long-standing urban problems such as mass housing, public transport, education and employment.
Organizers are on the lookout for city executives who possess qualities like leadership and vision, management abilities and integrity, social and economic awareness, ability to provide security and to protect the environment. A mayor’s ability to foster good relations between communities from different cultural, racial and social backgrounds is considered a plus factor.
(Voting is now taking place and will end October 2014 for the winner and runners-up of the 2014 World Mayor Award).
In his profile, Mabilog once wrote, “I am an Ilonggo by birth and by heart. I grew up as a simple child with a simple dream.” He continued, “I’ve once thought of an Iloilo that is progressive and globally competitive, and now, I am part of the realization of this dream,” he said.