Mayor Albee Benitez eyeing to make Bacolod City ‘Super City’

BACOLOD CITY - Change is indeed coming as former Negros Occidental Third District Rep. Alfredo ‘Albee’ Benitez revealed his plans in his first 100 days in office and future plans for the city during his inauguration rites on Friday, July 1.

Bacolod City Mayor Alfredo “Albee” Benitez takes oath before Barangay Granada Captain Alfredo Talimodao Jr., in rites held at the Bacolod City Government Center (BCGC) grounds Friday. He was accompanied by his wife, Dominique (right), daughter, Betttina (2nd from right), and eldest son, Victorias City Mayor Javier Miguel (Javi) (left). (Photo courtesy of Kirby Federez)

Benitez took his oath before Barangay Granada Captain Alfredo Talimodao Jr., in rites held at the Bacolod City Government Center (BCGC) grounds. He was accompanied by his wife, Dominique, daughter, Betttina, and eldest son, Victorias City Mayor Javier Miguel (Javi).

He was sworn in as the 43rd mayor here following his victory in the recent elections over Mayor Evelio Leonardia, who was considered the longest serving mayor here.

Benitez, in his message, recalled that he accepted the challenge to run here to bring change in Bacolod, noting that many have lost their hope and mired in poverty especially during the pandemic.

“I wanted to inspire Bacolodnons to dream again, and not just dream, but dream big,” Benitez said, adding that he wanted to present to the people a wider range of possibilities for the city, better prospects for their families, and a brighter future for their children.

Benitez said he wanted the people to believe that Bacolod can be better, and that there can be progress in every family.

He thanked the Bacolodnons for their overwhelming support, citing the biggest margin of victory in the history of Bacolod, for having 171,893 votes.

“Your trust is humbling. And I will not waste this opportunity of a lifetime. You have clamored for change and you made a resounding call for it. I will give it to you,” said Benitez, confident that they can deliver the promised change especially if they work together.

First 100 days

First on the list of Benitez’s priorities is to restore public trust which, according to him, should be grounded in transparency, as it is only by being transparent, by being accountable that ‘we can gain the trust of our people.’

Thus, one of his first orders of business was the creation of the Good Governance Committee to nominate the members of the Bacolod Truth Commission that will investigate allegations of graft and corruption in the city government to ensure that expenditures are prudent and efficient, and that public funds are utilized according to the government procurement rules and standards.

Benitez said that there will be no sacred cows.

“Wala pulitika, wala personalan, trabaho lang gid” (No politics, no personal attachment, just pure work), he said, adding that they will start with a clean slate.

Benitez said they will also accelerate the digital transformation of the city’s bureaucracy, harness the power of digital technology to enhance efficiency in the city government transactions – and ensure impartiality and non-partisanship in the delivery of government services.

“Wala color-coding ang aton administrasyon” (There will be no color-coding in our administration), he stressed.

Benitez said he will also strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies to ensure peace and order in the city, adding that during his campaign, he had pledged that his administration will allocate a higher budget to the Bacolod City police.

They will invest in the installation of state-of-the-art closed circuit television (CCTV) systems and solar-power street lights for crime prevention and crime deterrence in hot spots and to improve the safety of pedestrians.

To clean the city’s image, he also vowed to rid the city of ‘spaghetti’ wires which is not just an eyesore but a fire and accident hazard.

His team is also already in the process of reviewing the solid waste management system. To encourage segregation, he is proposing a trash-for-cash program, which will not only address the garbage problem but also provide an alternative source of income for the people.

Also, he said he will be protecting the ecological integrity of the city which requires long-term planning that integrates ecological and social justice principles in urban design.

“We have to plant more trees and build more green spaces such as parks, gardens and urban farms – and distribute development in all directions,” he added.

He said they will also invest in the rehabilitation of barangay or even private roads and open these to traffic to decongest the major roads.

“The best city is not where people reach their destination with cars, but where people can walk and bike from their homes to their destination,” he added.

To further support small food businesses, they will also invest in rehabilitating and rebranding of public markets, streamlining the downstream food supply chain, and strengthening farm-to-market linkages to lower food prices.

Benitez noted that their topmost priority is establishing the Bacolod Comprehensive Health Program as soon as possible, as he reiterated that he pledged to allocate the city’s biggest budget to health.

“We have also met with the management of government and private hospitals several times already to ensure indigent patients have access to quality medical care,” he said.

“Ini tanan nga promisa ko sa first 100 days – nasuguran na naton. Ang pagbag-o, nag-abot na,” (These are all my promises in the first 100 days - we have started and the change is already here), he said.

As part of their plans, he said his team is already discussing how to build 5,000 on-site housing units in one year, where they will relocate the informal settlers from remote areas.

“We are in talks with housing financial market experts to mobilize the initial funding for this program,” he added.

He also plans to allocate at least P100 million for social pension for vulnerable sectors like the senior citizens, solo parents, and persons with disabilities (PWDs).

Also part of their top priorities is the education for the youth and re-skilling of the workforce.

“Investing in youth is investing for the future,” he said.

Towards these goals, he said they will build smart classrooms, and provide digital devices to students and teachers for a permanent shift to digital learning.

His administration is also committed to long-term water security. They also 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.

“Our task is daunting, but 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,” he said.

Benitez said they will begin their journey to go the extra mile since Bacolod has a big potential.

“We will broaden our horizon for Bacolod to become a super city” – a global city with a diversified economy and skilled human resource, and model for green development and good governance,” he added.

"Wala gid imposible kun mag-isa kita” (Nothing is impossible if we unite), we can achieve anything – even the biggest of dreams,” he said.

Also sworn in were Congressman Greg Gasataya, Abang Lingkod Partylist Rep. Joseph Stephen Paduano, and Councilors Pao Sy, Celia Flor, Simple Distrito, Claudio Puentevella, Jason Villarosa, Renecito Novero, Vladimir Gonzales, Em Ang, Cindy Rojas, Israel Salanga, Thaddy Sayson, and Al Victor Espino.

Present in the occasion were Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, and other provincial officials, including mayors of different towns and cities.