‘The battle is not yet won’ Legacion delivers 2020 State of the City Report

By Jason B. Neola


NAGA CITY --- Calling the Nagueños as “mga ciudadanong nalalaoman, nasasarigan and nangangataman, Mayor Nelson Legacion has expressed confidence in his state of city report (SOCR) on Tuesday, Dec. 16, that his administration along with its partners in public and private sectors “shall continue to overcome whatever it is that will come our way.”

In his speech, Legacion said the whole of year 2020 has quickly turned out to be an annus horribilis or a terrible year and one of the worst he can remember. He recounted how Nagueños grappled with a succession of three typhoons – “Quinta,” “Rolly” and “Ulysses” – the second of which, packing winds of up to 315 kph, was the strongest of the 2020 season.


“In February, we grappled with the African Swine Flu outbreak, hammering local hog raisers and the swine industry,” he said.

LEGACION


The typhoons wrought havoc while the city deals with the Covid-19 pandemic that began in March and continues to be a major threat worldwide.


“But with every Nagueño doing his share sa atubang kan darakulang angat kan satong panahon, we have defied the odds and surmounted these challenges,” Legacion said.


The successful Covid-19 response


He said that the city was caught off-guard by the sudden decision of the national government to impose an enhanced community quarantine, or a hard lockdown, for the whole Luzon island. Under such condition, people were instructed to stay home, most businesses closed shops and public service wound down, except those deemed critical.


The mayor expressed gratitude for the heroic work of around 1,700 frontiners and volunteers from national and local government agencies, as well as the city government’s private sector partners, guided by the Incident Management Team (IMT) that directed the city’s response, which largely contained the spread of coronavirus within the city.


“In between, we quickly imposed lockdowns where necessary and adopted policies well ahead of the national government,” Legacion added.


Transport, food and accommodation were provided to frontliners, especially health workers, shuttled by vehicles made available by schools like the University of Nueva Caceres, Ateneo de Naga University and Naga College Foundation; industrial kitchens provided by BISCAST, food stuffs and cooks organized by the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry; and rooms by Sogo Hotel, the Bicast Hostel, and several other local lodging facilities.


To alleviate the pandemic’s economic impact, Legacion said the LGU Naga tapped government funds, augmented by private donations to provide several waves of food assistance to residents especially those in the vulnerable sectors, which continue up to now. The city’s public-and-private sector driven humanitarian task group worked with the Philippine Red Cross to ensure that donations are directed to vulnerable residents in need.


The report, which took the mayor 43 minutes to deliver, also mentioned the laudable partnership between the LGU and the National Resilience Council that allows the city to establish a local Covid-19 dashboard, which is being updated daily.


Nueca, an IT company, was also acknowledged for the development and operationalization of the “eSalvar” contact tracing application that allows the LGU to track the spread of the disease, thereby enabling it to implement evidence-based local solutions and strategies aimed at containing the virus.


The offshoots of such undertakings resulted to:


The city’s case doubling time (CDT) or the number of days it will take for cases to double is now 27;


The city’s mean reproduction rate R, which measures the speed of transmission, has remained below 1 for close to two months now, indicating that its spread has slowed down;


While the city’s positivity rate remains at around 10%, the number of daily tests being conducted on probable cases have significantly gone down to around 40, which explains while lately, the new positive cases have averaged only around 4, from more than 10 at the peak of the outbreak last August and September.


Legacion, however, warned Nagueños that “we must always stand on guard for the worst case scenario, saying that the situation doesn’t mean that we are on the clear as the battle is not yet won.


He said a key challenge facing the city is the reality that Covid-19 cases can still flare up, driven by two compounding factors: (1) returning stranded residents and overseas Filipinos from areas with high incidence of the disease, and (2) continuing relaxation of the economy and society in general to allow us to recover from the pandemic.


Describing the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) as most dependable partner and trusted ally in the city’s Covid-19 response, the legislative body led by Vice Mayor Cecilia V. de Asis was acknowledged for laying down clear-cut policies for the “new normal,” mainly through an ordinance crafted by Councilor Miles Raquid-Arroyo.


The SP also approved the enabling ordinance for the city’s “eSalvar” contact tracing app, and the realignment of the 2020 budget that allowed the LGU to provide funding for the business stimulus, community employment, and the city’s PT-PCR laboratory aimed at containing Covid-19 and mitigating its negative impact on society.


Overcoming the storms and ASF


The mayor also narrated how the city grappled with a series of typhoons that tested the Nagueños resolved and resilience as an urban community.


“Last December, “Tisoy” came, packing winds as strong as ‘Glenda,’ the Christmas-time howler that also hammered Naga in 2014. In the last week of October, this year, it was ‘Quinta’s’ turn. A week later, Super typhoon ‘Rolly,’ earth’s strongest typhoon in 2020, which evoked comparisons to the deadly ‘Reming’ in 2006, visited the city on All Saints Day.


And 10 days later, “Ulysses” came, and for almost 10 hours ravaged the Bicol peninsula including Naga,” he said.


He said that notwithstanding strong winds and torrential rains that bore down on Naga, the indomitable spirit of the Nagueño prevailed again and again and again. The typhoons toppled down power lines, destroyed houses, and generally made life difficult for most everyone.


“But thanks to a more responsive Casureco 2, ably assisted by the City Engineer’s Office, the General Services Department and the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, including City Councilor Joselito del Rosario, who heads the public utilities committee, and a local army of barangay electricians, power service was back in no time – making us yet again the fastest Bicol city to rise in the aftermath of powerful typhoons,” he said.


During the same period, Nagueños also wrestled with another epidemic, albeit affecting the local swine industry.


Legacion said that it was in February 2020 that the African Swine Flu outbreak hit the city hard – directly impacting local hog raisers and pork meat vendors, and effectively crippling the local supply of pork with the implementation of swine depopulation, coupled with a ban on pork meat products, to mitigate the disease.


He acknowledged the sacrifice of every household impacted by the difficult decision, mitigated by the city government financial assistance of P1,000 for each swine slaughtered to ensure that the industry’s future will not be laid to waste.


Singularly focused on the future


Of course for a positive trajectory, the city mayor assured Nagueños that the city government have and will continue to invest in key city facilities and infrastructure to deliver improved social services, be it in health care, public safety, or education.


On public health, the LGU have started the construction of the new City Health Office II situated at the Sta. Cruz New Development Site. The facility will rise alongside the proposed new Naga City Hospital to be established in Barangay Balatas, which will also host the city’s RT-PCR laboratory.


On public safety, the city government will pursue the Naga City Center for Safety and Resiliency that reflects the city’s desire for better traffic management and faster enforcer deployment, immediate response on emergency cases, and stronger, strategic and inter-linked communication facility.


Barangay Balatas will also host the new headquarters of PNP and BFP in the city. The Naga City Museum will be constructed in Barlin, the site where the current PNP HQ stands.


On public education, the city government has already completed the construction of the Sta. Cruz and the San Isidro High Schools, the first two of the new schools that will be established in the barangays of Balatas, Calauag, Concepcion Grande and Panicuason.


“In fact, we have recently broken ground for the construction of Balatas High School that will complement Balatas Elementary School and the new Yabu Elementary School in Barangay Carolina, the fourth for our biggest upland barangay,”


LGU Naga, in partnership with TESDA national leadership, has started the construction of a Metro Naga TESDA Hub along Almeda Highway to promote technical and vocational skills development.


“Right now, we are upgrading the Naga City Abattoir into a triple A district slaughterhouse that will directly serve not only the needs of our clients in the city but also those in the neighboring towns in the Metro Naga area.


Legacion, who was applauded for more than 10 times during his speech, said that in order to promote greater livability and green growth, more than 10 mini-forests under the Forest-in-Our-Midst (FOM) program have been established. FOM is a comprehensive urban greening strategy that seeks to address urban heat and climate change.


Under the city’s long term course, the mayor said, the economic challenges arising from Covid-19 pandemic are real and will continue well into 2021 or even beyond. “We are ready to tap the money markets in funding priority infrastructure needed in bouncing back and propelling growth,” he said.


The mayor presented the idea of pursuing the proposed People’s Park and Recreation Center (PPRC) at the Bicol Riverfront Area to be established in a 2.3-hectare lot that will house an interactive water fountain, cafés, and a concert ground that can hold gatherings of some 5,000 people. This development will accelerate growth in the southern portion of CBD 2.


Providing access to the PPRC is the 1.5-kilometer Bicol River Esplanade, proposed to be built adjacent to the Bicol River, consisting of a two-lane road with river-walk, green-scape, bike-lane, tree-line, and sidewalk, as well as the Almeda Bypass Road that will directly connect Almeda Highway to Mabolo, with the DPWH 3rd Engineering District has started constructing.


The city mayor also expressed his thanks to eight families and entities with whom the city government has struck partnership agreements covering a total of 5.4 hectares, with an estimated value of P136.5-M, for right-of-way and outright donations needed for the eventual implementation the city’s high impact projects.


These partners include the ERDC group (for the Convention Center), the Olivan family (for the Balatas-Leon Aureus Road), the Martires, Paterno, and Generoso families (Almeda-Mabolo Bypass Road) for PPP projects with an aggregate amount of P351-M.

Rep. Gabby Bordado of the 3rd District of Camarines Sur was also cited for providing funding for the 10 multi-purpose buildings and government facilities in different barangays of Naga amounting to more than P30 million.