August 26, 2019 - Monday
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Davao City, Philippines

Insights from the DILG conference with mayors

August 09, 2019 - Friday 4:08 AM by Jimmy Laking

The national gathering of newly-elected mayors hosted by Davao City at the Royal Mandaya Hotel proved an eye opener.

One mayor I befriended is the current mayor of Castañeda in Nueva Viscaya, Wilson Capia-ao. He came with a municipal councilor, Sonny Atos Poncian.

They were in the company of Mayor Faustino Aquisan of Kabayan, Benguet.

The town of Castañeda is host to a reservoir that provides water to the nearby Pantabangan dam that provides irrigation to Central Luzon. The town was founded by settlers and migrants with my parents among them. It is a melting pot of at least 10 regional ethno-linguistic groups with Tagalog as the dominant tongue.

It is also where my mother in her advance years has chosen to retire, although every now and then she would take the bus to Baguio City to visit her relatives.

Mayor Capia-ao came to Davao with several purposes in mind. The first was to attend the week-long orientation on climate change mandated by the Department of Interior and Local Government. It was also his first time to visit Davao. 

Finally, he was hoping he could get to ventilate to authorities the plight of his town in so far as the dam facilities are concerned. Prior to Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III’s presidency, the town was getting a business tax of P10Million annually from the dams. The bigger bulk was in the form of real property taxes which was much, much higher. 

But when PNoy assumed the presidency, the real property tax was stopped upon his directive. 

“It does not look right as our town is the source of water flowing to the dams,” he said, adding that the amount would be more than substantial to provide basic services to his constituents.

He said his town was clamoring for the restoration of what belongs to the town.

Mayor Aquisan on other hand is looking forward to a time when President Duterte steps out from office. 

He said he was hoping that his programs to curb corruption and to eliminate drugs would be sustained beyond his term. 

“These are programs that are appreciated where I come from,” he said. “Conversely, we are prepared to support Mayor Sara in case she takes up the challenge to run for Philippine president.”

We also learned that with former General Eduardo Año at the helm of the DILG, the agency is the preferred choice of President Duterte in implementing his war on drugs, corruption, insurgency, and on basic sector concerns such as OFWs, PWDs, environmental clean-up of Manila Bay, Boracay and El Nido and in seeing to it that LGUs get to implement infrastructure development. The DILG has been also tasked as the lead agency to promote federalism. 

“So in a sense, we have our hands full in coping with multi-tasks,” said DILG regional director Alexander Roldan. “There is not dull day at the DILG.”

The comparison between Año and his predecessor Mar Roxas cannot be avoided. Roxas, I was told, proved a difficult man to access by his subordinates when he was DILG boss. 

One regional director said you needed an appointment before you can get to see Roxas. On the other hand, Año was accommodating and respectful even to subordinates.

Roldan confirmed this, saying that Año will not hesitate to break his stride if there is something urgent that needed to be communicated to him. 

“You can talk to him along the aisle or on the sidewalk even if it is drizzling,” he said. “And he will not leave unless both sides were satisfied.”

Roldan said he was able to send messages through Viber and text to Año himself and got prompt replies in return, from Año himself.

Now that is something Senator Dick Gordon probably is not aware of. No wonder President Duterte chose Año to ramrod his priority programs. It is a job for implementers and Año fits the bill to a T.

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