Drilon feted by Ilonggo business leaders

Published August 17, 2019, 10:28 AM

by Gabriela Baron & Minka Klaudia Tiangco

By Mario Casayuran

Iloilo business leaders honored Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon for his immense contribution to the development of Iloilo in a reception hosted by the Iloilo Economic Development Foundation, Inc. at the Iloilo-Multisectoral Business Organization. Inc. last Friday.

Sen. Franklin Drilon (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
Sen. Franklin Drilon
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

“The last 12 years have seen tremendous growth. Senator Drilon has contributed a lot of big ticket projects which have changed the landscape of Iloilo forever,” former Tourism Secretary Narzalina Lim said.

“Senator Drilon and I have worked on a quite a number of projects, like the construction of the Iloilo International Airport. We cannot underestimate the impact that it has,” said former Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr.

“The beautiful 10-lane highway from the airport to Iloilo City is responsible for opening the eyes of the country that Iloilo is on the road,” he added.

The former governor was referring to the 15-kilometer Senator Benigno Aquino Avenue, a project of Drilon, which is the main gateway to the city. The whole stretch is now a commercial strip, dotted by new hotels and business establishment.

It is complemented by a 14-km four-lane circumferential road, the President Corazon Aquino Avenue, which provided easy access to the city and opened new land areas for development.

“Iloilo stands out as an investment location because it has good well-connected infrastructure,” Francis Gentoral, executive director of the Iloilo Local Economic Development Foundation, Inc., said.

“I think that Iloilo really grew tremendously. Big companies are already located here. I think Iloilo, after five years, will usher in the growth of more businesses,” Fanny Uy, President of the Iloilo Multi-Sectoral Business Organization, Inc., pointed out.

“Senator Drilon has revived interest in our river by developing the Esplanade,” Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Trenas said, referring to the eight-kilometer long, six-meter wide Iloilo River Esplanade, the longest linear park in the country, which becomes a model of urban development.

Drilon thanked the local leaders and the business community for recognizing his efforts.

“In Iloilo, we have proven that we can create change when we put our collective interest before individual interest. In Iloilo, we are nurturing big dreams and are working hard to realize these dreams,” Drilon said.

“Our ambitious plans for Iloilo are not achievable in the short term. But in less than a decade, Iloilo’s rapid progress stunned even our most committed critics,” he added.

Drilon said that the story of Iloilo was not just the story of the Ilonggos as it was the story of Filipinos, who are determined to scale new heights of economic and social success.

“If we were to tell the story of the transformation of Iloilo through a song, that song would be the classic ‘Impossible Dream,’” he added.

Drilon said that “there’s more to be done and the development of Iloilo remains a work in progress.”

“We have made huge strides in our efforts to make Iloilo a world-class city. But now is not the time to rest. There is much to do. There are bigger challenges to tackle to make Iloilo a competitive, world class city,” he added.

“It is not yet time for us to pat our backs and say, ‘look, how far we have gone.’ Rather, it is, ‘look, how far do we have to go?’” Drilon said. “We will not stop pursuing our development goals because we want to show the whole country that if it can be done in Iloilo, it can be done anywhere.”

The Ilonggo senator outlined some his plans for Iloilo. Among these are the construction of the Iloilo-Guimaras bridge, the positioning of Iloilo as MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) destination, and the establishment of agro-industrial economic zones, among others.

“Let us lobby and put pressure on the government to commence construction of the Iloilo-Guimaras bridge. The recent tragedy which claimed the lives of 31 people, should leave no doubt on the need for this bridge, regardless of any economic rate of return standard used by our economic managers in deciding on this project,” Drilon said.

“In 2009, we found out that there’s the Jalaur Multi-Purpose Project. It’s been there since 1960, more than 49 years. The main problem was the lack of financing. Through the effort of Senator Drilon, as early as 2012, it already has financing. I truly believe that if Senator Drilon didn’t work this out, the project would not have materialized,” Dr. Alfonso Uy said.

Uy, a known civic leader and a philanthropist, was referring to the construction of the Jalaur River Multi-Purpose Project, single biggest public infrastructure project in the history of Iloilo. The funding for its construction was secured by Drilon amounting to $208 million development loan from the Korean Exim Bank in 2012.

This project, which will have an 800-hectare water reservoir, the biggest outside Luzon, will provide irrigation to 32,000 hectares of farm land.

It will double the income of almost 25,000 farmer families, boosting Iloilo’s rice production from 142,000 metric tons, to over 300,000 metric tons annually. It will supply 86.4 million liters of potable water daily, and generate 6.8 megawatts of electricity per day.

Drilon also initiated the restoration of heritage structures in Iloilo. Among these are the century-old Elizalde building, which now houses the first Museum of Philippine Economic History; the Sunburst Park, where Drilon plans to put up the Wall of Panay Heroes; the renovation of the old Iloilo Custom House; and the restoration of the main building in University of the Philippines (UP) Visayas.