“A young, diverse and dynamic city”: Quezon City’s mayor speaks out

Reading Time: 9 minutes
Herbert Bautista1
Herbert Bautista, Mayor of Quezon City

Investvine’s Imran Saddique sat down with Herbert Bautista, a popular actor-turned-politician who on July 1, 2010 became mayor of Quezon City in a landslide victory to discuss pressing issues faced and being tackled by his administration.

With Quezon City being the heaviest populated area in Metro Manila, how do you cope with transport, infrastructure and environmental issues?

Herbert Bautista: Quezon City used to be the capital of the country between 1948 and 1976 and is located practically at the center of the entire National Capital Region. If you look at a map of Metro Manila, Quezon City covers one third of the entire area. We are the second largest city in terms of land size in the entire country behind Davao City, but we are the largest in terms of population with approximately 3.1 million inhabitants. The original plans of founding president Manuel Quezon have been adhered to, and you can see that – especially from the succeeding administrations from the 1980s – new technologies have been implemented. We now have the MRT rail transit system, there is a proposal for a subway, and roads have been widened according to needs. These are investments of the national government, whereby the local government has complimented this with its own money in order to link communities together. While there are still communities that are not linked via roads or other transportation facilities, we are slowly connecting them and try to come up with breakthrough projects to decongest traffic along major thoroughfares, by bridging projects and many other things.

What is being done in terms of environmental issues, which are quite visible in Quezon City?

Herbert Bautista: We have a resiliency team and an environmental team that look at formulas to combat these issues. There is also a green and blue campaign that we run: The green campaign is about reforestation of the city and taking care of our parks – which, by the way, incidentally won an award for park development. We have 600 community parks and 12 district parks. The challenge is that some of these parks have seen various families settle there informally, and we first need to go through a relocation process with them before moving on to putting our environmental policies in place.

The blue campaign focuses on cleaning up rivers, on air quality, working closely with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Ateneo School of Government and the Environmental Studies Institute at Miriam College.

Communication can also play a huge role in addressing these issues. Through the executive secretary, we are currently looking at a proposal to build the world’s third largest tower (after Dubai and Tokyo). The primary objective for this tower is that it would play a crucial role in disaster management as the scope of the tower’s transmitters would allow it to cover 6 to 7 provinces on the island of Luzon – so they are easily able to communicate emergency broadcasts. It is also done for tourism purposes as the tower would be a natural landmark and put Quezon City on the global map. Apart from that, there is a national policy that all radio and TV stations must use digital technology, but some are still on analog. By the end of this year there will be a call to start digitising the entire network. The stations – instead of putting up their own satellites etc – can then also make use of this tower. I hope before the end of this term we can break ground on the project with a view to complete it by 2019, which would mean 3.5 years of construction time.

There is also a new push from the United Nations towards reaching Sustainable Development Goals. They are among the primary requirements for cities to be energy efficient. This might be easier for Singapore or Japan where electricity is regulated by the national government or produced through public-private partnership projects, but in the Philippines this is different and just at the beginning. Thus we are additionally pushing for a waste-to energy-project. This is seen as controversial because burning waste is not acceptable in the Philippines, and we have to adhere to the Clean Air Act and the Solid Waste Management Act and are trained to segregate the waste. When it is biodegradable, it is processed to compost. What reaches the landfill has to contain a maximum of overall municipal waste of about 20 to 30 per cent. We have been very successful in this regard as our communities are very proactive in segregating. However, as we are still producing 2,400 metric tonnes of municipal waste per day, we have started talks with various companies who are able to turn this waste into approximately 42 megawatts of electricity. Moreover, SM Group recently has installed solar panels in Quezon City in the largest operation of its kind in the Philippines, and according to them the panels produce 1.5 megawatts which is equal to energising 22,000 homes. In essence, we want to be energy efficient and lower energy costs as we remain part of the national grid.

Herbert Bautista3
Herbert Bautista in his office at City Hall, Quezon City

How is investors’ appetite currently in Quezon City?

Herbert Bautista: Well, in the 1980s we used to be a mix of a rural and urban area, but the landscape changed dramatically in the 1990s from industrial to services and tourism. From 1991 to present days the city has evolved into becoming the number one location for Business Process Outsourcing firms as we have a very good policy for them, taking into account both the owners and the workers. We also have a very young and dynamic workforce.

When the industry was in its infant stages, we faced serious challenges, though. As many of the offices worked during US or Europe day time zones, there were safety and security issues during twilight hours because areas around the offices were not well lit and transportation was an issue. So we created a council and subsequently a policy just to address these concerns, and several years thereafter, in 2003 and 2004, policies were put in place to ensure all issues were addressed. Today, as mentioned, we have a young and dynamic workforce who is well-trained to handle the rigours of the job.

The real estate market here is superb. The land area of Quezon City is one third of Metro Manila, the government land is one quarter and private individuals own the remaining, so the potential is there.

In anticipation of the ASEAN integration we are also focusing on education from the K-12 curriculum and up to ensure relevant skills are taught for today’s market needs.

As far as economic integration is concerned, we have already reached 97 to 98 per cent, and the rest is about trying to protect our local industries like farmers and their produce, just as Thailand and Vietnam are doing. The main issue of the integration is also no longer the agricultural sector, but the human resource sector. In Mindanao alone, for example, there are up to 300,000 Malaysians and Indonesians working undocumented. There have to be policies in place to safeguard citizens when integration is implemented to avoid serious issues like human trafficking.

How does the open visa policy in ASEAN effect this situation?

Herbert Bautista: This has been there for a while. The strategy of the ASEAN member states is that domestic policies should not be intruded upon as there are still open conflicts, for example in the West Philippine Sea with China and over the many islands that are claimed by other nations. In the earlier stages of ASEAN there were a lot of border disputes, but after the non-visa policy for ASEAN citizens was introduced as one of the very first acts, it turned out that this has enhanced the strength of the relationship between member nations. Today, it is helping economic integration – this is why it was created,

Will the ASEAN Economic Community be a game changer in your opinion in terms of real economic impact?

Herbert Bautista: The Philippines is a poor country, and the only institution that has been able to provide services like water, electricity, communication, airlines etc at that time was the government. The era of regulation started in the mid-1980s and early 1990s under former President Fidel Ramos, when all of the major industries have been deregulated. This has created new players. For example, in the aviation industry, there used to be a monopoly of Philippine Arlines, but today, there are various local and international airlines like AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, Delta and others. It is much more open now, and that was instituted by the Congress. The speaker of the house and former mayor of Quezon City – my predecessor – is further pushing for amendments to the economic provisions of the Philippine constitution.

Herbert Bautista2
Herbert Bautista with Imran Saddique (left)

Measurements of mayors’ performances around the world are always related to jobs created, unemployment figures, and the like. How have you done in that regard?

Herbert Bautista: We are a relatively young city, but, as mentioned earlier, many jobs have been created and investment in the Business Process Outsourcing industry has grown rapidly. We are now focusing on services and tourism, which includes a wide scope. The food and entertainment industry is very popular in Quezon City, and just like Mexicans and Spaniards, we Filipinos love food and music, its part of our culture. The area we are in now [City Hall] is the known as the medical zone, as medical tourism is big here for a variety of issues such heart, kidney, lung or skeletal. We will expand health services by transferring one of the hospitals from northwest Quezon to here in central Quezon City and the national health insurance, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, is also locating here.

Along the main stretch of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, or EDSA, you have large TV and cable networks like GMA, ABS-CBN and others and the entertainment district with fitness and wellness facilities also compliments the central business district just in the north of EDSA.

We are well connected via different forms of transportation which now includes taxi sharing with Uber, although there are talks about creating a local version. We are also looking at a monorail that connects the area further.

We are a young and diverse city that has created employment across all these verticals.

Will there be a direct connection between Quezon City and Makati as they are two hubs but traffic creates an issue of in- and outflow?

Herbert Bautista: There is a proposal to connect the two areas with a flyover but the major opponents to that are in Eastwood City as it would bypass them and could affect their commerce. There are also security concerns of Green Meadows and Acropolis Greens that would have to be addressed when a flyover is being constructed. The solution has to be to open the side of Marikina River and Pasig River.

Will the citizens of the Philippines see a transparent and responsible government soon?

Herbert Bautista: Quezon City is doing that already. I am a member of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines that presides over the 143 cities in the country. We have an Open Governance Programme that deals with transparency issues and accessibility to data from the government. We also have to ensure privacy and security of data and that it is handled in the appropriate way.

Does the mayor’s office act as an enabler for startups to flourish within Quezon City, or is it private sector driven?

Herbert Bautista: Quezon City is encouraging startups to set up here, there are now co-working spaces available and hackathons taking place at the nearby universities. I recently met with the ambassador of Israel and it was great to see how they have fostered the startup culture in Tel Aviv. We are collaborating with them in this sector. The objective is to incubate ideas and to transform Commonwealth Avenue into a techno hub. In front of the UP Town Center there is Ayala Foundation’s Technology Business Incubator, and Quezon City is part of that as the vice chair.

Skilled human capital exists within the Philippines; there are a number of skilled programmers, gamers, animators and other specialists, and educational institutions that foster the skill sets that are required. The entrepreneurship aspect is what requires additional thrust and support.

So what does the future hold for Quezon City under your stewardship?

Herbert Bautista: The city is very dynamic; my life consists of the city but it will remain there long after. This is a legacy question, and I would prefer someone else to take up what I have accomplished as the mayor.

What are some of the challenges you have faced during your time as the mayor?

Herbert Bautista: The challenges of the country are similar to the challenges of the city as it’s a microcosm of the country. Policies that the national government is instituting have been incubated here in Quezon City. Recently, the Supreme Court in partnership with the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Justice has launched the Justice Zone, a programme aimed at speeding up litigation processes and reducing caseloads. This is not a new idea, but has been relaunched to move processes along faster, and remarkably it was launched here. Quezon City has long been the pilot city to test policies by the national government, and it which makes us proud to be chosen as genesis of major policies that are then implemented across the country.

 

Herbert Bautista4Herbert Bautista (born 1968) is the mayor of Quezon City, Philippines, since 2010. He has been vice mayor of Quezon City from 2001 to 2010 and from 1995 to 1998. He is member of the ruling Liberal Party of the Philippines under Chairman and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. Serving in the Philippines Armed Forces since 1992, he currently ranks Lieutenant Colonel and is Commanding Officer of the 1502nd Infantry Brigade (Ready Reserve) set up in 2006 which has since been mainly involved in disaster relief and rehabilitation operations. In his acting career, he appeared in numerous TV shows and movies since the early 1980s, with his latest movie being the Filipino comedy Raketeros (2013). Bautista won the Best Actor Award at the Manila Film Festival in 1984 for his role in the horror movie Shake, Rattle & Roll, and the Best Supporting Actor Award from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences in 1998 for his role in the crime and action drama Parak: The Bobby Barbers Story.

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

Herbert Bautista, Mayor of Quezon City

Investvine’s Imran Saddique sat down with Herbert Bautista, a popular actor-turned-politician who on July 1, 2010 became mayor of Quezon City in a landslide victory to discuss pressing issues faced and being tackled by his administration.

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Herbert Bautista1
Herbert Bautista, Mayor of Quezon City

Investvine’s Imran Saddique sat down with Herbert Bautista, a popular actor-turned-politician who on July 1, 2010 became mayor of Quezon City in a landslide victory to discuss pressing issues faced and being tackled by his administration.

With Quezon City being the heaviest populated area in Metro Manila, how do you cope with transport, infrastructure and environmental issues?

Herbert Bautista: Quezon City used to be the capital of the country between 1948 and 1976 and is located practically at the center of the entire National Capital Region. If you look at a map of Metro Manila, Quezon City covers one third of the entire area. We are the second largest city in terms of land size in the entire country behind Davao City, but we are the largest in terms of population with approximately 3.1 million inhabitants. The original plans of founding president Manuel Quezon have been adhered to, and you can see that – especially from the succeeding administrations from the 1980s – new technologies have been implemented. We now have the MRT rail transit system, there is a proposal for a subway, and roads have been widened according to needs. These are investments of the national government, whereby the local government has complimented this with its own money in order to link communities together. While there are still communities that are not linked via roads or other transportation facilities, we are slowly connecting them and try to come up with breakthrough projects to decongest traffic along major thoroughfares, by bridging projects and many other things.

What is being done in terms of environmental issues, which are quite visible in Quezon City?

Herbert Bautista: We have a resiliency team and an environmental team that look at formulas to combat these issues. There is also a green and blue campaign that we run: The green campaign is about reforestation of the city and taking care of our parks – which, by the way, incidentally won an award for park development. We have 600 community parks and 12 district parks. The challenge is that some of these parks have seen various families settle there informally, and we first need to go through a relocation process with them before moving on to putting our environmental policies in place.

The blue campaign focuses on cleaning up rivers, on air quality, working closely with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Ateneo School of Government and the Environmental Studies Institute at Miriam College.

Communication can also play a huge role in addressing these issues. Through the executive secretary, we are currently looking at a proposal to build the world’s third largest tower (after Dubai and Tokyo). The primary objective for this tower is that it would play a crucial role in disaster management as the scope of the tower’s transmitters would allow it to cover 6 to 7 provinces on the island of Luzon – so they are easily able to communicate emergency broadcasts. It is also done for tourism purposes as the tower would be a natural landmark and put Quezon City on the global map. Apart from that, there is a national policy that all radio and TV stations must use digital technology, but some are still on analog. By the end of this year there will be a call to start digitising the entire network. The stations – instead of putting up their own satellites etc – can then also make use of this tower. I hope before the end of this term we can break ground on the project with a view to complete it by 2019, which would mean 3.5 years of construction time.

There is also a new push from the United Nations towards reaching Sustainable Development Goals. They are among the primary requirements for cities to be energy efficient. This might be easier for Singapore or Japan where electricity is regulated by the national government or produced through public-private partnership projects, but in the Philippines this is different and just at the beginning. Thus we are additionally pushing for a waste-to energy-project. This is seen as controversial because burning waste is not acceptable in the Philippines, and we have to adhere to the Clean Air Act and the Solid Waste Management Act and are trained to segregate the waste. When it is biodegradable, it is processed to compost. What reaches the landfill has to contain a maximum of overall municipal waste of about 20 to 30 per cent. We have been very successful in this regard as our communities are very proactive in segregating. However, as we are still producing 2,400 metric tonnes of municipal waste per day, we have started talks with various companies who are able to turn this waste into approximately 42 megawatts of electricity. Moreover, SM Group recently has installed solar panels in Quezon City in the largest operation of its kind in the Philippines, and according to them the panels produce 1.5 megawatts which is equal to energising 22,000 homes. In essence, we want to be energy efficient and lower energy costs as we remain part of the national grid.

Herbert Bautista3
Herbert Bautista in his office at City Hall, Quezon City

How is investors’ appetite currently in Quezon City?

Herbert Bautista: Well, in the 1980s we used to be a mix of a rural and urban area, but the landscape changed dramatically in the 1990s from industrial to services and tourism. From 1991 to present days the city has evolved into becoming the number one location for Business Process Outsourcing firms as we have a very good policy for them, taking into account both the owners and the workers. We also have a very young and dynamic workforce.

When the industry was in its infant stages, we faced serious challenges, though. As many of the offices worked during US or Europe day time zones, there were safety and security issues during twilight hours because areas around the offices were not well lit and transportation was an issue. So we created a council and subsequently a policy just to address these concerns, and several years thereafter, in 2003 and 2004, policies were put in place to ensure all issues were addressed. Today, as mentioned, we have a young and dynamic workforce who is well-trained to handle the rigours of the job.

The real estate market here is superb. The land area of Quezon City is one third of Metro Manila, the government land is one quarter and private individuals own the remaining, so the potential is there.

In anticipation of the ASEAN integration we are also focusing on education from the K-12 curriculum and up to ensure relevant skills are taught for today’s market needs.

As far as economic integration is concerned, we have already reached 97 to 98 per cent, and the rest is about trying to protect our local industries like farmers and their produce, just as Thailand and Vietnam are doing. The main issue of the integration is also no longer the agricultural sector, but the human resource sector. In Mindanao alone, for example, there are up to 300,000 Malaysians and Indonesians working undocumented. There have to be policies in place to safeguard citizens when integration is implemented to avoid serious issues like human trafficking.

How does the open visa policy in ASEAN effect this situation?

Herbert Bautista: This has been there for a while. The strategy of the ASEAN member states is that domestic policies should not be intruded upon as there are still open conflicts, for example in the West Philippine Sea with China and over the many islands that are claimed by other nations. In the earlier stages of ASEAN there were a lot of border disputes, but after the non-visa policy for ASEAN citizens was introduced as one of the very first acts, it turned out that this has enhanced the strength of the relationship between member nations. Today, it is helping economic integration – this is why it was created,

Will the ASEAN Economic Community be a game changer in your opinion in terms of real economic impact?

Herbert Bautista: The Philippines is a poor country, and the only institution that has been able to provide services like water, electricity, communication, airlines etc at that time was the government. The era of regulation started in the mid-1980s and early 1990s under former President Fidel Ramos, when all of the major industries have been deregulated. This has created new players. For example, in the aviation industry, there used to be a monopoly of Philippine Arlines, but today, there are various local and international airlines like AirAsia, Cebu Pacific, Delta and others. It is much more open now, and that was instituted by the Congress. The speaker of the house and former mayor of Quezon City – my predecessor – is further pushing for amendments to the economic provisions of the Philippine constitution.

Herbert Bautista2
Herbert Bautista with Imran Saddique (left)

Measurements of mayors’ performances around the world are always related to jobs created, unemployment figures, and the like. How have you done in that regard?

Herbert Bautista: We are a relatively young city, but, as mentioned earlier, many jobs have been created and investment in the Business Process Outsourcing industry has grown rapidly. We are now focusing on services and tourism, which includes a wide scope. The food and entertainment industry is very popular in Quezon City, and just like Mexicans and Spaniards, we Filipinos love food and music, its part of our culture. The area we are in now [City Hall] is the known as the medical zone, as medical tourism is big here for a variety of issues such heart, kidney, lung or skeletal. We will expand health services by transferring one of the hospitals from northwest Quezon to here in central Quezon City and the national health insurance, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, is also locating here.

Along the main stretch of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, or EDSA, you have large TV and cable networks like GMA, ABS-CBN and others and the entertainment district with fitness and wellness facilities also compliments the central business district just in the north of EDSA.

We are well connected via different forms of transportation which now includes taxi sharing with Uber, although there are talks about creating a local version. We are also looking at a monorail that connects the area further.

We are a young and diverse city that has created employment across all these verticals.

Will there be a direct connection between Quezon City and Makati as they are two hubs but traffic creates an issue of in- and outflow?

Herbert Bautista: There is a proposal to connect the two areas with a flyover but the major opponents to that are in Eastwood City as it would bypass them and could affect their commerce. There are also security concerns of Green Meadows and Acropolis Greens that would have to be addressed when a flyover is being constructed. The solution has to be to open the side of Marikina River and Pasig River.

Will the citizens of the Philippines see a transparent and responsible government soon?

Herbert Bautista: Quezon City is doing that already. I am a member of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines that presides over the 143 cities in the country. We have an Open Governance Programme that deals with transparency issues and accessibility to data from the government. We also have to ensure privacy and security of data and that it is handled in the appropriate way.

Does the mayor’s office act as an enabler for startups to flourish within Quezon City, or is it private sector driven?

Herbert Bautista: Quezon City is encouraging startups to set up here, there are now co-working spaces available and hackathons taking place at the nearby universities. I recently met with the ambassador of Israel and it was great to see how they have fostered the startup culture in Tel Aviv. We are collaborating with them in this sector. The objective is to incubate ideas and to transform Commonwealth Avenue into a techno hub. In front of the UP Town Center there is Ayala Foundation’s Technology Business Incubator, and Quezon City is part of that as the vice chair.

Skilled human capital exists within the Philippines; there are a number of skilled programmers, gamers, animators and other specialists, and educational institutions that foster the skill sets that are required. The entrepreneurship aspect is what requires additional thrust and support.

So what does the future hold for Quezon City under your stewardship?

Herbert Bautista: The city is very dynamic; my life consists of the city but it will remain there long after. This is a legacy question, and I would prefer someone else to take up what I have accomplished as the mayor.

What are some of the challenges you have faced during your time as the mayor?

Herbert Bautista: The challenges of the country are similar to the challenges of the city as it’s a microcosm of the country. Policies that the national government is instituting have been incubated here in Quezon City. Recently, the Supreme Court in partnership with the Department of the Interior and Local Government and the Department of Justice has launched the Justice Zone, a programme aimed at speeding up litigation processes and reducing caseloads. This is not a new idea, but has been relaunched to move processes along faster, and remarkably it was launched here. Quezon City has long been the pilot city to test policies by the national government, and it which makes us proud to be chosen as genesis of major policies that are then implemented across the country.

 

Herbert Bautista4Herbert Bautista (born 1968) is the mayor of Quezon City, Philippines, since 2010. He has been vice mayor of Quezon City from 2001 to 2010 and from 1995 to 1998. He is member of the ruling Liberal Party of the Philippines under Chairman and Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. Serving in the Philippines Armed Forces since 1992, he currently ranks Lieutenant Colonel and is Commanding Officer of the 1502nd Infantry Brigade (Ready Reserve) set up in 2006 which has since been mainly involved in disaster relief and rehabilitation operations. In his acting career, he appeared in numerous TV shows and movies since the early 1980s, with his latest movie being the Filipino comedy Raketeros (2013). Bautista won the Best Actor Award at the Manila Film Festival in 1984 for his role in the horror movie Shake, Rattle & Roll, and the Best Supporting Actor Award from the Filipino Academy of Movie Arts and Sciences in 1998 for his role in the crime and action drama Parak: The Bobby Barbers Story.

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