The new Pasig, Manila and QC mayors

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The new mayors of Pasig City, Manila and Quezon City, are in the news.

Vico Sotto, the young and charismatic new Pasig City Mayor has lived up to his campaign promise to do away with the unfair, arbitrary “odd-even” vehicle use restriction policy dictated on the people of Pasig by his predecessor, Mayor Robert Eusebio. Last 1 July, Sotto suspended the unpopular “odd-even” scheme in his first executive order as the new city mayor.

Approved by the Pasig City Council in 2016, the “odd-even” rule, euphemistically called by Eusebio’s stooges in the city council as the “modified vehicular volume reduction scheme,” prohibits four-wheeled motor vehicles from using certain streets of the city on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, or on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, depending on the last digit of a vehicle’s license plates.

Sotto was the solitary city councilor who voted against the “odd-even” restriction. One of his campaign pledges in the last election is the abolition of the restriction.

Motorists traversing the Pasig City roads complained that the “odd-even” scheme conflicted with the number coding restriction currently being enforced by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. It created an undue restriction on motorists who needed to use the city’s roads to get to destinations other than Pasig City.

Corrupt policemen operating in Pasig City have been reported to extort money from motorists caught unwittingly violating the “odd-even” restriction. Motorists also lament that city officials and favored employees are exempted from the “odd-even” restriction.

The Eusebio political dynasty, which controlled the city for 27 years, lost its 27-year control of the city upon being defeated in the May 2019 election.

After suspending the “odd-even” scheme, Sotto happily announced that “Everyone is now welcome in Pasig.”

Over in the City of Manila, Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso announced that the 2.1-hectare Arroceros Forest Park along the south bank of the Pasig River, a stone’s throw away from city hall, will be preserved for public enjoyment. Environmentalists call the forest park “as the last lung of the city.”

Past city mayors wanted to demolish the forest park and replace it with a city building.

Analysts say that corrupt politicians often resort to construction projects to profit from them.
During his time, Mayor Joselito Atienza tore down 200 trees, or approximately one-third of the population of trees in the forest park, to make way for a building. The park’s thick canopy of shade trees was obliterated almost overnight.

Mayor Atienza also ordered the demolition of the iconic and historic Jai-Alai Building along Taft Avenue near Rizal Park. The building was a showcase of art-deco architecture pre-war Manila was known for. A high-rise building now stands on the site.

Domagoso’s decision to preserve the Arroceros Forest Park distinguishes himself from his predecessors.

Over in Quezon City, the new mayor, Joy Belmonte, looks forward to a wonderful time at city hall. She is a member of the Belmonte political dynasty which held power in the city since 2001.

Last week, the news media reported that Belmonte will have at her disposal P26.27-billion in the city’s treasury. That’s a lot of money. In fact, it’s the biggest treasury fund among the cities of Metropolitan Manila.

Despite all that money in the treasury, Quezon City residents are asking why the Quezon City government still increased real estate taxes by a whopping 5 times more than the current rate. The city intends to collect the higher real estate taxes before year’s end.

Actually, the higher real estate taxes were supposed to be collected earlier this year but Mayor Herbert Bautista suspended the collection in the meantime. Collecting the higher real estate taxes in the months prior to the May 2019 election would have created bad political publicity for Belmonte, who was the Bautista’s anointed successor.

Belmonte cannot deny her role in the increase in real estate taxes. As the vice mayor, she was the presiding officer of the Quezon City Council which ordained the higher real estate taxes.

Despite the city government’s overflowing treasury chest, will Belmonte do a Bautista by selling more of the city’s valuable real estate to private real estate developers? This column will be monitoring developments at city hall.

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