If we are to take a lesson from China, it is clear that a nation or a city can never attain progress without superior planning, discipline and cooperation among all stakeholders.
These are the main lessons that the delegation of 37 men and women from the Dumaguete City government learned from their five-day sojourn in two mega cities in southern China last week.
The 37-man delegation was headed by Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo, who personally funded the trip including the fees for the passports, visas, air fare, hotel accommodations, among other expenses for the 37-strong delegation composed of Vice-Mayor Franklin Esmeña Jr., Councilors Lilani Ramon, Michael Bandal, Manuel Arbon and Joe Kenneth Arbas and 27 of the 30 barangay captains of the city.
Specifically, the trip was meant for the delegates to learn and mutually promote trade, tourism, culture including the latest advances in engineering and infrastructure as well as part of the team building activity for the elected officials.
Remollo said that it was also upon the invitation of his friends in China who will be potential investors in Dumaguete City.
Councilors Ramon and Abas stressed that the privately-funded trip of city and barangay officials to make them understand that the main purpose of Mayor Remollo in bringing them to China is that like the mega cities of Guangzhou and Shenzen, and another tiny city like Dumaguete City, can achieve great economic progress and bring prosperity to its people if they develop a superior and comprehensive master plan, implement it through strong political will and the cooperation of the people.
Prior to the rise Guangzhou as an Alpha global city and best commercial city on Chinese mainland and Shenzhen as the first and most important special economic zone comparable to Hongkong, the two cities used to be the typical Chinese villages in the ancient time. But a succession of leaders implemented responsible commercialization and urbanization through a master plan that eventually made the two cities become important economic hubs in China attracting thousands of citizens from other provinces and immigrants from other countries.
In particular, the delegation offered the following observations of the Chinese cities:
Preservation of heritage, culture and the environment
The Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou continually seek to balance rapid modernization and commercialization with the need to preserve their heritage (one of the oldest civilization and culture on earth) and cultivate the environment to ensure a sustainable future of the next generation. In Shenzhen, the government allocated a whole stretch of what used to the ancient Beijing road that in the center one could see two underground archeological sites proving that the street has been in existence for over one thousand years.
In Guangzhou, its rivers and streets are lined with lush flowers or trees on both sides are taken care by a large number of devoted workers.
This proves that Dumaguete City, through the master plan of Mayor Remollo, can balance modernization or development without sacrificing our own rich heritage and love for nature, which form part of our identity as Filipinos.
Public utilities and infrastructure
Both Shenzhen and Guangzhou boast of high rise skyscrapers that can rival big cities in the United States and EU countries to accommodate large populations as well as provide massive public transportation system. The cities are well planned with 8 to 10 lane highways and large railways through tunnels that cut into the mountains to lessen travel time, provision of adequate parking spaces and streets that are free from trash, squatters and illegal vendors. One can hardly find a homeless family or person in these Chinese cities as hundreds of low cost condominium units built by the government can be rented for up to 70 years. But unlike in the Philippines, all lands in China belong to the government and anyone can lease a lot and condo units for residential and commercial purposes.
Under the city’s master plan, additional growth centers for trade, commerce and even terminals for public vehicles will be located in the upper barangays to relieve traffic congestion in the city center and disperse the influx of people and vehicles with more underground or multi-level parking areas while clearing the existing streets of all kinds of obstructions. Informal settlers can be relocated to a condominium that will be cleaner and more dignified dwelling for the poor while clearing the squatted lands for more business establishments so the government can earn more revenues through taxes which will fund more basic social services such more scholarships, medical assistance, building of roads, among others. These social services correspond to Mayor Remollo’s program of government to provide food and shelter to the people through employment and mass housing.
Peace and Order
One thing that is remarkable in almost all Chinese cities, particularly in Shenzhen and Guangzhou, is that all uniformed policemen have no visible firearms yet they are able to enforce the laws without compromise and the citizens seem to hold authorities in high regard that they would easily yield to the government. However, it was also noticeable that from the airport, in the buses, streets, restaurants in all places and building modern CCTVs are a fixture to record everything and allow the government to closely monitor the movement of the people as well on alert for any sign of violence or crimes. Apparently, while policemen in general are unarmed, in every police station a special force unit in full battle gear are on standby to promptly respond to any sign of trouble that will get out of hand. Due to the relative peace and order the business climate is excellent attracting more businesses even foreign investors.
As part of the master plan of Mayor Remollo is the installation of CCTVs and traffic light system. All these projects are to be implemented within the year in orderto further improve peace and order and attract more investments.
Trade and Tourism
Also an important industry in both Shenzhen and Guangzhou is tourism which fuels trade and employment. Mayor Remollo brought the delegation to the famous Window of the World in Shenzhen, which features replica of the world’s natural wonders, historical heritages and famous scenic sites as part of their educational tour. The next day, the delegation went to Chimelong Paradise a world class amusement park in Guangdong that attracts thousands of tourists and visitors every day. Finally, the delegation took a night tour of the Pearl River and marvel at the well-lighted skyscrapers looming majestically in the skyline of Guangzhou, home to 14 million diverse, talented, workaholic and dynamic people guided by a firm leadership committed to responsible modernization.
As members of the delegation prepared to depart from Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, the conversation among them came to a conclusion that the growth of the two Chinese cities into major economic hubs not only in China but also of the world did not happen by accident or through endless debates among intellectuals and politicians as to who has the best idea.
It was through the formulation of a master plan that addresses all the needs and improvement, offers the means on how to achieve them consistent with priorities of the people to build a modern yet livable city.
Then the delegates realize, that the full potentials of Dumaguete City can be realized by implementing the master plan of Mayor Remollo to turn this city into a miniature version of Shenzhen or Guangzhou provided that the people they lead sincerely practice the traditional values such us respect for elders and authority, entrepreneurship, discipline, cooperation, devotion to God, country and the community. It may take time, both Guangzhou and Shenzhen but it is a vision that the administration tries to impress upon the people for their own good.
CLARIFICATION ABOUT LAST ISSUE’S STORY:
The first sentence of the last paragraph of last Sunday’s article “Dumaguete dads tour Chinese cities” (January 27, 2019) mis-stated that “The cost of the travel is charged to the Philippine government…” Instead, it should have stated that “The cost of the travel is not charged to the Philippine government…” This is consistent with the lead of the story found in page 1 that the trip incurred “no cost to the local or Philippine government.” Finally, the expenses of the trip of the city and barangay officials including the fees for the passports, visas, air fare, hotel accommodation and other incidental expenses were all personally shouldered by Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo. …../ PIO Dems Demecillo/ Thank you.