Full throttle ahead for Iloilo

I’m having coffee at the Westown Hotel and noticed that the new Smallville 21 of Romeo Go is already completed, with a second adjoining buildng in the final stages of construction.  Along with Iloilo Business Hotel, there are now three medium-sized hotels in the Smallville area, reinforcing its position as the business and entertainment growth area for Iloilo City. Not too far away, the Ayala BPO building is also rising up fast. The new billionaire, Edgar “Injap” Sia II, has likewise commenced his People’s Condominium a block away. Only a hundred meters away is the soon-to-be-opened Plazuela de Iloilo of radio and banking magnate, Dr. Rogelio Florete.

These developments leave no doubt that Iloilo is pushing the throttle lever to “full” in its bid to become the next economic growth center of the country. What used to be fishponds and salt beds have become a sprawling business center for the city, and this will only be enhanced once MegaWorld starts its own development activities in the 55-hectare old Iloilo domestic airport less than a kilometer away. It is easy to envision the area fully developed with more malls and office buildings in the next three to five years. Of course, I also have to mention the reconstruction and renovation of the long-abandoned Royal Palms Hotel in the Fort San Pedro area as well as the opening of a slot machine gambling facility at the Amigo Mall.

The pace of development is now approaching dizzying speed, and it is important that our city officials don’t waste the opportunity to put the required infrastructure to support this growth. City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and the city council can’t afford to be passive by-standers as these things are happening. They have to aggressively look at every concern and take action quickly.

The biggest concern is still power. Right now, the city is suffering from daily outages that last 3 to 4 hours. Ordinary residents and businessmen alike are grousing about how this is making life miserable, and business losses unavoidable. Everybody is pinning their hopes on the operation of the coal-fired power plant of the Global Business Power Corp. anytime this month. The city is getting hungrier and hungrier for power, and the coal-fired power plant is expected to erase the supply deficit. With a total capacity of 164-mW, the new power plant can provide the city, and the rest of Panay island, with their power needs for the next 3-5 years.

The second concern is roads. There are many road sections in the city that are almost impassable due to potholes and poor maintenance. An example is the section of Lopez Jaena St., a major road, in Barangay San Isidro. The road is so bad that navigating the section is like driving through an obstacle course. The city needs every inch of road to be in good condition to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic. A growing business requires swift movement of products efficiently. DPWH should also provide support by pursuing the construction of peripheral roads that would link the outer towns of Leganes, Zarraga, Pavia, Sta. Barbara, San Miguel and Oton.

Third is peace and order. The city is struggling with a surge in sensational crimes these past two months. Taxi drivers have been held up and murdered. A businesswoman was kidnapped and killed, her body dumped under a motel bed. What’s more frightening is that even a policeman, PO1 Jomari Lamis, was shot and killed in broad daylight. Apparently, lawless elements have no respect for our police. This image has to be drastically changed. The culprits for these crimes have to be caught and put to jail. An atmosphere of security and serenity will have to descend upon Iloilo City to make investors feel safe and come here. More importantly, residents should feel protected in going about their daily routines.

These are just a few factors, but I think these are good starting points. We need to bring every sector to cooperate and help in the attainment of these goals. Mayor Mabilog needs to demonstrate decisiveness and forceful action in carrying out his leadership role. The business community must also support City Hall in its initiatives. This is ripe moment for Iloilo City to discard the image of a languid community and become a dynamic force for development.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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