If you hover miles over Metro Manila, it will easily be the most visible city. Stretching over a vast 16,000 hectares, Quezon City occupies a fourth of the country’s National Capital Region. Its borders connect it to at least seven other cities in the metro, and is considered as a hub of economic activity and a preferred location for living, play, and leisure.

The geographical advantages are among the many strengths of what has been recognized as the most competitive city in the country by the 6th Regional Competitiveness Summit and Awards for three years in a row. In 2018, the body also named Quezon City as the most competitive in terms of economic dynamism and infrastructure.

“In Quezon City, commitment is commitment,” Mayor Herbert Constantine “Bistek” Maclang Bautista said in his State of the City address last year. “That is why we have progressed as far as we have.” The city head has been in public service since 1986 and rose the political ranks from a youth leader, councilor, vice mayor, to mayor since 2010. For more than 32 years, Bautista has focused his career on Quezon City, along with various nationwide responsibilities. In the city’s coffee table book, Governance: Innovations and Reforms: Sharing the Breakthroughs in Urban Challenges, the mayor admits feeling like he practically grew up with the development of city.

Innovation is key to QC’s continued progress. Its government, fully aware of the ever-changing times, crafted a strategy to identify possible challenges and areas of opportunities. A grand development plan “encompasses the entire range of socioeconomic concerns, including business, infrastructure, environment, peace and order, and governance,” and focuses on “concerns that center on the people: health, education, social services, livelihood, and housing.”

It is not an easy task for a local government looking after such a populous territory. Quezon City’s “state of continuous growth and development” increases the demand for better, more efficient services for different sectors. Business groups, families, students, employees, and its most indigent residents bring various sets of expectations and needs. These have driven Mayor Bautista to prioritize ease of business, infrastructure, education, and the improvement of social services, among others.

Over 72,000 registered business establishments have benefited from operational reforms instituted to improve business registration and applications for construction and occupancy permits. The city introduced a one-stop shop in January 2018 to provide a centralized location for all transactions, assessments, and evaluations which entrepreneurs and business groups are required to complete. The local government believes these changes enabled it to top the Cities and Municipalities Competitive Index in the sub-indicators of economic dynamism and infrastructure. Through a “file and pay” approach, it reduced the interaction of corporations and single proprietors to only two.

According to Bautista’s office, the mayor’s goals with the improved processes also included cutting down on red tape and avoiding inconveniences to the public. In its 2016-2017 annual report, Quezon City reported that business taxes accounted for 51 percent of the city’s income and amounted to more than P9.5 billion in 2017.

On its goal to enhance the quality of education, the city continues to provide support through financial assistance and the construction of school buildings. Bautista considers education as a key area to empower citizens to prepare them for the changes brought about by the regional integration of the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN). QC’s enrollment participation is at 95 percent at the elementary level and almost 86 percent for secondary education. The city government supports more than 2,900 students from the most indigent families attending college and graduate school. It also provides funds for residents who belong to the informal sector to enable them to access technical vocational education and skills training.

The city estimates that 45 new public school buildings or 772 new classrooms were built during Bautista’s administration. The refurbishment of the Quezon City Public Library (QCPL) included innovations in the areas of radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to store information in books, an integrated library system, and the adaption of a new cataloguing standard. The QCPL has branches in all its six districts—instrumental to the implementation of reading centers in Quezon City’s depressed areas.

The focus on helping the poorest of the poor is due to Mayor Bautista’s partiality to citizens who are disadvantaged, disempowered, indigent, and are most at risk, according to the city government’s coffee table book, Hope Becomes Reality. It explains that this is the reason why “among the government programs directed at people’s welfare, the ones that are given most attention are those for the vulnerable and less endowed.” Realities that all cities in Metro Manila share, such as having homeless individuals, out-of-school youth, and residents who have no means of supporting themselves financially have increased Bautista’s will to earnestly address this marginalized sector.

A socialized housing program is offered in QC to allow families to acquire their own homes in self-managing communities. It is considered by the city’s current leadership as a priority project that mitigates disaster risk, minimizes “urban blight towards improved environment management,” and upgrades communities and their quality of life. As of last, the Quezon City Resettlement Program had relocated 22,982 families, all of whom are targeted to benefit from the city’s transformation programs that aim to reduce their vulnerability to disaster, provide them with clean and healthy living conditions, and access to other social and livelihood services.

Under Bautista, more than P500 million worth of healthcare facilities were completed as of 2017. The Quezon City General Hospital added a two-story outpatient department and continues to serve as a training center for medical personnel.

Mayor Herbert talks about the ongoing and upcoming infrastructure projects in Quezon City.

As a result of a 2012 city ordinance, a facility dedicated to provide medical, psychological, police, and legal assistance to victims and survivors of gender-based abuse and violence continues to serve women, children, and members of the LGBT (lesbians, gay, bisexuals, and transgenders). Called the One-Stop Protection Center, it offers counseling, medical care, and investigative services that are done in a gender-responsive and child-friendly manner. Facilities for drug rehabilitation, rescued street children, and the city’s health department office at the City Hall have either undergone or are scheduled to undergo physical improvements as well.

The city has adopted a Community Health Information Tracking System to improve the access to health information by any health facility to ensure appropriate medical treatment. And in keeping with the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations, innovations to care for mothers and children are now available to the residents of the city.

Aside from being gender-safe, Quezon City also aims to be drug-free. The Anti-Drug Abuse Advisory Council of the city, headed by Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, is implementing a community-based approach in treating and rehabilitating surrendering drug users. Belmonte reports in the city’s 2016-2017 annual report that around 500 former illegal drug dependents were employed as laborers in the construction of the Metro Rail Transit System Line 7 (MRT-7) project that is expected to run until 2020.

Under Bautista, more than P500 million worth of healthcare facilities were completed as of 2017. The Quezon City General Hospital added a two-story outpatient department and continues to serve as a training center for medical personnel.

For the rest of its residents, the Bautista administration is pushing for inclusive growth through the generation of more jobs and livelihood opportunities. Entrepreneurship and microfinance programs are offered via the Small Business Development and Promotion Office that is in charge of “linking local government services, national programs, private sector funding with the city’s micro and small, backyard producers.” As of 2017, the city says that a total amount of P5.96 billion in loans have been granted to more than 95,000 entrepreneurs, of which around 93,547 are women. Aside from this, it has employment programs, localized, targeted training, and assistance to migrants in place.

In these areas and in the rest of its responsibilities, Quezon City operates in a sustainable fashion that will continue to benefit its citizens over the long term. Through a “green and blue” campaign, it seeks to reduce its carbon footprint by lessening greenhouse gas emissions through improvement of waste disposal and management, utilizing alternative sources of energy, anti-pollution programs, and mandating green building standards in all structures. Bautista established and chairs the Environmental Policy Management Council that is tasked to recommend policies and projects related to ecology, waste management, and other urban environment advocacies.

Amid its growing population, rising infrastructure, and increased activity, Quezon City is strengthening its environment management systems and capacity to mitigate risks and adverse impacts on its communities. Modernization and innovation will ensure its competitiveness while focusing on the environment ascertains its sustainability.

Mayor Herbert Bautista’s public service career has always given emphasis on making a difference in people’s lives. His government continues to receive affirmation through local and international awards and recognitions for its implemented programs and initiatives. With every empowered resident—whether through a new house, job, a cleaner school, a feeling of belongingness, and a sense of security—Quezon City thrives. And it is doing so with visionary leadership and a local government that stands up for every member of society it sees as equally important as the rest. — JOYCE REYES-AGUILA

Mayor Herbert Bautista’s public service career has always given emphasis on making a difference in people’s lives. His government continues to receive affirmation through local and international awards and recognitions for its implemented programs and initiatives.

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