Maayong adlaw sa inyong tanan!

When I started my fresh term as Mayor in July 2019, I mentally prepared myself for the emergencies and disasters. No term of mine was ever uneventful and I did not expect the current one to be smooth sailing but my wildest dreams never considered a pandemic.

As Chief Executive, I have weathered numerous storms but what completely floored me was that I did not see an end to this one.

Ten months since the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic, Davao City remains trapped in a very peculiar reality just like the rest of the world. And we should all manage our expectations because this pandemic will define how we will live our lives for another two years. Maybe more.

Ten (10) months into the COVID-19 pandemic and we have seen an alarming spike in the number of confirmed Covid-19 positive cases. As we wait for a vaccine to control the spread, we need to be thinking about ways to reduce risk of transmission. The basics there is- stay at home, wear a mask, frequently wash your hands, and observe social/physical distancing.

This is not only a public health emergency, but also an economic and social crisis. And we are endlessly, trying out the best strategic, seamless connection between the stages under our Plan of Action against Covid19 — Prevention, Testing, Contact Tracing, and Isolation, Quarantine, and Treatment.

The following are the highlights of the city’s COVID-19 response –

Testing: The City’s testing capacity is currently at approximately 1,200 tests per day.

We have supported the establishment of two private laboratories and we are rushing the completion of our own Los Amigos Davao Laboratory funded from the Bayanihan Heal as One Act.

Trace: Contact Tracing has been particularly challenging. Just very recently, the Department of the Interior and Local Government augmented 1,500 personnel to assist in the city’s contact-tracing efforts.

We also envision to use technology to support the team. We endeavor to catch many of the contacts of a confirmed positive case with the use of the Safe Davao QR.

Isolate: As of date, we have 15 Temporary Treatment and Monitoring Facilities with a capacity of 1,171 bed spaces for various types of individuals from confirmed positive, suspects, contacts and post-swab individuals.

We also have 601 bed spaces across four (4) facilities supporting our “Test and Wait” initiative for arriving passengers at the Davao International Airport.

Treat: Initially, we had the Southern Philippines Medical Center as the sole hospital for COVID-19 patients. But with the surge of cases, three (3) private hospitals have opened COVID-19 wards.

Cremation: Another project funded by the Bayanihan Law is the Wireless Public Cemetery Crematorium, which shall accommodate all COVID-related deaths. It is now on its final stages of testing and training for personnel operations.

On top of these responses, social welfare programs were also initiated by the city government in support to our daily wage earners and people working in the informal sector who faced loss of jobs, income, and food security.

Food Relief Response remains to be our top priority since March. We have distributed 1,305,454 grocery packs to 448,312 households in all 182 barangays of the city during the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) period. A total of 70, 994 food packs were also given to workers of establishments and sectors who remain to be affected by the Modified General Community Quarantine.

We encourage everyone who needs help and ayuda sa pagkaon to please reach out to our City Social Welfare and Development Office social workers for immediate assistance.

The WORK FOR DAVAO Cash for Work initiative has provided cash assistance to at least 20,180 Dabawenyos who lost their jobs amidst this pandemic.

Along with this, the TUPAD of the Department of Labor and Employment has also helped jeepney drivers whose incomes have been greatly reduced because of the distancing requirements in public transportation. And just very recently, we used the same assistance to help out the displaced workers of the businesses affected by the liquor ban.

Meanwhile, ESKWELA DAVAO is an educational assistance grant for children of families who lost their source of income or have reduced income due to the pandemic. The program will benefit 22,000 students — of which 4,500 are Junior High School; 4,500 are Senior High School; 10,000 are elementary; and, 3,000 are kindergarten. The beneficiaries are set to receive cash assistance ranging from P1,000 to P3,000 each.

Two private donors also generously supported the families with three (3) or more learners with 300 laptops under the STUDENT SIBLINGS LAPTOP SHARING PROJECT and 100 tablets for the STUDENT SIBLINGS TABLET SHARING PROJECT to help them with their online school work.

We were able to support the Blended Learning implementation of the Department of Education by directing approximately 100 million pesos of the Special Education Fund to support the Modular mode of instruction, which is the highest preference among Davao City learners.

Even amidst the pandemic, the Byaheng DO30 program continues on. Here are the highlights of what we hope to finish during the end of my term in June 2022:

We continuously support the big-ticket projects of the National Government that are aligned with the Infrastructure Modernization Project for Davao.

In particular, we were able to gain the full support of the Department of Transportation on the High Priority Bus System project and we are trying to cement the support of various national offices led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the Waste to Energy Project.

Since the WTE is but a paper that we push around for much needed support, we have allotted funding under the Annual Budget 2021 to expand our existing sanitary landfill for our solid waste management.

Currently, the Interim Bus System is suffering setbacks because of the fear of investors in not being able to deliver the contract on time due to the Covid-19 global economic loss. The Land Transportation Franchising Regulatory Board has been on top of this matter since we started with the first failed bidding.

In the meantime, the City Government is working together with local consultants in figuring out how we can lay out the bus and bike lanes on our roads. And we have already sent out our letters for the possible collaboration with private landowners for bus terminals and depots in Toril, Lasang-Bunawan and Calinan.

And we are also looking at the option of funding the land and right of way acquisition for transportation infrastructure for provincial buses, the interim bus system, and the HPBS. We likewise need to fund the study and installation of additional traffic lights in new intersections and integrate them to our existing system.

We are also continuously monitoring the Davao City Bypass Project, the Davao-Samal Bridge, and the Davao City Coastal Road Project.

The Davao River and Coastal Road Monitoring Team, which was recently created to monitor activities along coastal road, has helped with the voluntary removal by owners of numerous makeshift houses along and atop river dikes, which are considered as danger zones.

Our Magsaysay Park and Sta. Ana Port development efforts are also on hold while awaiting the completion of the coastal road to ensure that any investment in these properties are not rendered useless by a possible redesign due to the coastal road.

For parks and open spaces development, we have completed two new parks – the Candelaria Park and the McArthur Highway Park, and we are in the bidding for a park along the Dona Vicenta subdivision area. We are also to start the Phase 1 of the development of the Roxas Avenue Park funded by DBM.

When this pandemic is over, I invite everyone to ride through the scenic areas of Paquibato and Calinan especially the parts which were made through the Roads and Bridges to Peace project implemented by the DPWH that is intended to open more economic activities and address the peace and order issues in these areas.

During your evening ride, I also invite everyone to look up to our sodium to LED bulbs transition for streetlights which have greatly improved visibility and security on the roads.

Meanwhile, our security status has remained to be on high alert since 2016 and this year, a 53 percent decrease in index crimes was recorded as it dropped from 658 to 306 in the previous year.

The non-index crimes, on the other hand, increased to 74 percent, from 2887 to 4189 crimes, due to the increased apprehensions on the violation of Covid-19 health protocols.

Drugs and terrorism remain to be on top of our focus areas on criminality and we are underscoring the adoption of the Culture of Security. Simply put, all Dabawenyos should become be a partner in ensuring that our city remains peaceful.

One component that we are trying to cascade down to the household level is the “Kapag May Nakita, Dapat Magsalita” component of the culture. We need our residents to report all suspicious persons and activities for security action. The initial conduct of the community exercise in the last month proved effective on Dabawenyos’ capacity to report possible threats.

Peace 911 continues to work in establishing lasting peace commitments from the residents in the area of Paquibato. Along with this, we are working on the establishment of the University of Southeastern Philippines (USEP) Extension Campus and a Police Station in Barangay Malabog, and a District Hall and City Mayor’s Extension Office in Barangay Paquibato Proper.

Housing options need to escalate aggressively to address the need of our people for a suitable, safe, and affordable homes.

The donated houses built on the Los Amigos Relocation Site are almost fully occupied and the private companies complying with their housing regulation mandate have recently finished the site development of the Lasang Relocation Area. We hope to see the National Housing Authority to build these homes soon.

The City Economic Enterprise Office has funds for the purchase of property for the establishment of cemeteries in both the North and South side of the City.

The development of the Tagakpan Cemetery and the repair of Toril, Mintal, and Bankerohan Public Markets, and the completion of Agdao Public Market are all underway.

There is a long-term plan to improve on the local government center in San Pedro St. and the priority is to expand the open spaces in Rizal Park and create an underground parking.

To this end, we have moved the CSWDO office to its own 4-storey building and the City Engineer’s Office building is currently under construction; adjacent to it is also the construction of the City Health Office building.

Within the People’s Park compound, the newly built Tourism and DCIPC building is ready for occupancy, the Museo Dabawenyo is undergoing construction and the MICE building will soon follow. Our brand new Library and Information Center in the nearby C Bangoy Street will inaugurate next year.

Other infrastructure projects that will start soon are the Halfway House for the Mentally Unwell Vagrants and the Davao City Special Needs Intervention Center.

Our disaster office is busy completing the evacuation center in Brgy. Mahayag and finalizing requirements for other possible sites.

We are also finalizing the documents for the Davao AKO card, which shall be used as a disaster and social services card for Davao City residents.

The Davao City Disaster Radio has been granted a legislative franchise and is currently constructing its permanent home.

We are awaiting the final documents for the approval of the Annual Budget of 2021 in the amount of 9,871,199.436 pesos, which has a significant decrease of 466,533, 226 pesos from this year’s budget of 10, 337, 732, 662 pesos.

The difference is attributed to the decrease of income from local sources because of the severe economic impact of COVID-19. The net effect is the reduction on the number of projects under the development fund. On the bright side, we are still on track for our goal of Debt Free Davao 2022.

There are three projects which are equally important but has been pushed back beyond my term for various reasons, the least priority of which is the expansion of the City Hall Building, which is moved to no definite date.

The City College of Davao which was targeted to open August this year is moved to June 2023 — and hopefully, by that time, the situation will already allow face to face classes. In the meantime, we are on the process of doing another feasibility study for this project.

The third is the Davao City Hospital in partnership with the University of the Philippines Mindanao, which will probably materialize in 2024. Right now, the documentary requirements for this hospital is being accomplished.

My heartfelt gratitude to all honest and hardworking City Government officials, heads of offices and employees, National Government Agencies and Instrumentalities, officials and employees, and countless private donors who lift me up as your local chief executive.

With them, I also thank all the Dabawenyos who help us become better servants with their support and constructive feedback.

COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future. We should expect that it would be a difficult stretch.

I will forever be between a rock and a hard place amidst this pandemic. The rock that exemplifies all the people trying to save the lives of our fellowmen from dying of Covid-19 complications and the hard place that is representative of the people trying to save their families from going flat broke.

And we, Dabawenyos, WE WILL NOT BREAK.

The deaths, the pain, the debts, and the frustration are sent our way to change us into Dabawenyos, who look at dark clouds and see it as the silver lining.

Daghang Salamat.

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