Bacolod Mayor Alfredo Benitez takes his oath before Granada Barangay Captain Alfredo Talimodao in the presence of his son Victorias City mayor Javier Miguel Benitez, daughter Bettina Marie and wife Dominique Lopez Benitez (l-r)* Ronnie Baldonado photo
Mayor Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez vowed that there will be no sacred cows in his fight against corruption and outlined his priorities for change in his inaugural speech at the Bacolod City Government Center grounds Friday evening, July 1.
Bacolod can become a super city – a global city with a diversified economy and skilled human resource, and a model for green development and good governance, because nothing is impossible if everyone works together, he also said.
The biggest portion of the city government’s budget will be for health, and P100 million will be allocated for the social pensions of the vulnerable sectors, Benitez said.
Benitez also said he is also working on building 5,000 on-site housing units for the poor in one year.
Benitez, Bacolod Rep. Greg Gasataya, Abang Lingkod Rep. Stephen Paduano, Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran and councilors Thaddy Sayson, Israel Salanga, Cindy Rojas, Em Ang, Vladimir Gonzales, Renecito Novero, Jason Villarosa, Kalaw Puentevella, Simple Distrito, Celia Flor and Pao Sy took their oaths before Bacolod barangay captains during the inauguration rites.
Absent was Councilor Al Victor Espino.
Benitez thanked the people of Bacolod for giving him “the biggest margin of victory in the history of Bacolod”.
“Your trust is humbling and I will not waste this opportunity of a lifetime, this position that you have entrusted to me,” he said.
Benitez promised that under his administration the people of Bacolod will see and feel change in the city.
“You asked for change, I will give it to you,” he said.
Benitez said his first priority will be to restore the people’s trust in the city government.
“Restoring public trust should be grounded in transparency. It is only by being transparent, by being accountable that we can gain the trust of our people,” he said.
That is why one of the first orders of business is to create a Good Governance Committee to nominate the members of the Bacolod Truth Commission that will investigate allegations of graft and corruption in the city government, he said.
The commission will ensure that expenditures are prudent and efficient, and that public funds are utilized according to the government procurement rules and standards, he said.
“There will be no sacred cows. Let the chips fall where they may,” he said.
Benitez said government transaction systems will also be reengineered, and frontline services will be improved for efficiency.
They will accelerate the digital transformation of the city’s bureaucracy – and digitalize the permitting process, he said, adding that they will start with the Office of the Building Official.
“We will harness the power of digital technology to enhance efficiency in city government transactions – and ensure impartiality and non-partisanship in the delivery of government services,” he said, stressing that there will be no color coding under his administration.
He said they will also orient and train front desk personnel to be courteous to constituents, regardless of status in life.
“We will treat everyone equally with respect,” he said.
PEACE AND ORDER
Benitez said he is ordering the Bacolod police to intensify their anti-crime operations and increase police patrols and surveillance of hot spots or high-crime areas.
He has asked the police to resolve cases as soon as possible, he said.
His administration is committed to allocate a higher budget to the Bacolod police, Benitez said.
The Bacolod City government will also invest in the installation of a state-of-the-art CCTV system and solar-power street lights for crime prevention and crime deterrence in hot spots and to improve the safety of pedestrians, especially call center agents going home at night, Benitez said.
“Wide CCTV coverage will help our law enforcement agencies resolve crime faster, “he said.
Benitez said to clean Bacolod’s image, they literally have to clean the city.
They will start with the cleaning up of the “spaghetti wires” that are not only eyesores, but fire and accident hazards, Benitez said.
Benitez said his team is also already in the process of reviewing the city’s solid waste management system.
“We will ensure timely collection of solid waste from households and commercial establishments – and its proper disposal in our landfill in Brgy. Felisa,” he said.
To encourage waste segregation, Benitez said he is also proposing a trash-for-cash program.
“This will not only address our garbage problem but also provide an alternative source of income for our people,” he said.
“We have to plant more trees and build more green spaces such as parks, gardens and urban farms – and distribute development in all directions,” Benitez added.
The Bacolod City government will also invest in the rehabilitation of barangay or even private roads and open them to traffic to decongest major roads, Benitez said.
He said the city government will also support alternative modalities of mobility to make Bacolod a green, walkable city – and designate bike lanes.
To further support small food businesses, the city government will also invest in rehabilitating and rebranding our public markets, he said.
“Central, Burgos and Libertad markets should take center stage in our local commerce. We will also streamline the downstream food supply chain, and strengthen farm-to-market linkages to lower food prices,” Benitez said.
Benitez said their topmost priority is establishing the Bacolod Comprehensive Health Program as soon as possible.
He has the commitment of the Sangguniang Panlungsod that they will expedite the approval of the enabling ordinances and the necessary funding to activate the program, Benitez said.
“I now reiterate my pledge during the campaign to allocate the biggest portion of the city’s budget to health,” he said.
Benitez said he has met with the management of government and private hospitals several times already to ensure indigent patients have access to quality medical care.
As part of his future plans, Benitez said his team is already discussing how to build 5,000 on-site housing units in one year.
“We are in talks with housing financial market experts to mobilize the initial funding for this program,” he said.
For indigents who cannot pay for their housing units a house-for-work program will be established, Benitez said.
He said pensions for senior citizens, solo parents and persons with disabilities will also be allocated.
“We will allocate at least P100 million for the social pension for these vulnerable sectors,” he said.
Benitez said education for the youth will also be a top priority and the re-skilling of the workforce, he said.
“We will build smart classrooms, and provide digital devices to students and teachers for a permanent shift to digital learning. We need to develop the digital literacy of our workforce so they can compete in a changing labor market and an increasingly digital economy that require technical or cognitive skills,” he said.
His administration is also committed to the long-term water security of Bacolod, Benitez said.
“As groundwater aquifers in Bacolod become contaminated or depleted due to development and demand, we will need to increasingly depend on bulk water supply from Talisay or Murcia – and so we must strengthen coordination and collaboration with these LGUs and the private sector,” he said.
With climate change disrupting the water cycle, there is also a need to think of water recovery and water treatment innovations to ensure supply of clean water, Benitez said.
He called on the Sangguniang Panlungsod to review the investment promotion ordinances to catalyze and guide the management of water resources.
Benitez also stressed the need to welcome new investments, open new markets, develop new revenue streams for local entrepreneurs, create new jobs, and increase incomes – at the same time, protect the environment for the benefit of future generations.
Benitez said he has no doubt his administration will achieve the goals it has set out to achieve.
“In my life, I have always dreamed big. In business or in politics, I have always aimed to be different – to chart a new path, to break new ground, to be a gamechanger. Many times, I had to go the extra mile – and gave beyond what is expected of me,” Benitez said.
Also present at the Bacolod inauguration rites were Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson. Vice Gov. Jeffrey Ferrer and the representatives and mayors of Negros Occidental.*