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THE FIRST OF THE FIRSTS

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The City of San Fernando’s first lady mayor recently delivered her first State of the City Address that punctuated her first 100 days in office.

Speaking before a multi-sectoral crowd last October 10 at the Heroes Hall in this city, Mayor Vilma Caluag reported on her administration’s priority programs under her development agenda which aims to uplift the lives of Fernandinos with much emphasis on universal health care and delivery of social services.

In her address, Mayor Caluag elaborated on her achievements as the fulfillment of her promises made during the 2022 mayoral campaign.

THE FERNANDINO DIALYSIS CENTER

Topping this list of promises delivered within the first 100 days of her administration was the fulfillment of Caluag’s brainchild, the Fernandino Dialysis Center. Established through a public-private partnership between the City Government and the Luzon Medical System, the facility was officially inaugurated last October 6 with 25 hemodialysis machines for the use of indigent-Fernandino patients at no cost to the city.

The enrollment of beneficiaries per barangay has begun with the City Health Office initially identifying 219 patients.

SOCIAL SERVICES AND THE KAYABE KArd

Acting under her principle of inclusivity, Mayor Caluag continues to intensify the City Government’s social services program. She revealed that the City Government, through the City Health and Social Welfare and Development offices, renders financial assistance to Fernandinos needing chemotherapy and monetary support to senior citizens with their hospital bills and medical needs.

The mayor has expressed her wish to give free chemotherapy to Fernandino cancer patients as well as free hospitalization to senior citizens which she hopes will realize in the near future with the support of Councilor Dr. Ayzel Macalino, the CHO, and the CSWD.

Caluag also reported that under the city’s social services program, 466 indigent Fernandinos received medical assistance, 411 with burial, and 51 with funeral assistance, while 17 assistive devices, particularly hearing aids and wheelchairs, were given to Persons With Disabilities.

She further said that under the Local Social Pensioners Program, 1,500 Fernandinos currently receive subsistence assistance, while 750 indigents were helped through the city’s local Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

The Fernandino youth development remains in focus, with a total of 4,158 pre-schoolers presently enrolled under the Early Childhood Care and Development program.

A Youth Summit is also being organized to identify the actual needs of young Fernandinos, which will serve as the basis for formulating appropriate and relevant plans and programs for the City Government.

The Fernandino KAYABE KArd, deemed another major priority, shall become the official tool for accessing the City’s social services. The mayor revealed that extensive data gathering goes on through the CSWD and the Community Affairs Division to ensure the coverage of all Fernandino citizens. The initial batch of Kayabe Kards has already been distributed to Fernandinos categorized under “citizens with chronic diseases” – Hemodialysis patients. As of this writing, 13,522 Fernandinos are already registered under the program.

EDUCATION

As a concrete example to demonstrate the principle of inclusivity of her administration, Mayor Caluag shared her experience with a Fernandino youth who appealed for entry into the City College of San Fernando (CCSFP) despite not having met the institution’s grade qualifications. This spurred her to talk with CCSFP President and Administrator Atty. Gloria Bañas regarding a policy that would consider admission of average though equally qualified and deserving students. Mayor Caluag now takes pride in having opened up the City College to help more Fernandino youth. The enrollment of about 1,500 students this year has more than doubled the previous 700+ scholars in the past.

Quality of education in the city will now be boosted with Mayor Caluag’s pledge to give free laptops and internet service to all public school teachers in San Fernando. The first batch of teaching equipment is projected to be released before the end of 2022.

EMERGENCY RESPONSE

The safety of the Fernandinos is given high priority by Mayor Caluag, who lauded the LGU’s quick response to the onslaught of Super Typhoon Karding last September 26. She reported the efforts of the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (CDRRM) Council and the CDRRM Office team under Raymond del Rosario, in bringing safety through its efficient response capability and providing for over 600 affected families. She added that despite the typhoon’s Wind Signal No. 5 strength, no Fernandino was injured. The city was restored to normalcy on the day after the typhoon. It is therefore imperative, said Mayor Caluag, that the CDRRMO be provided with needed manpower, equipment, and sets of training for further capacity-building.

Flood mitigation remains in sight with the continuous cleaning and dredging of the city’s waterways.

INFRASTRUCTURE SUPPORT, LIGHTING, AND BEAUTIFICATION 

Progress has presented problems to the City, the foremost of which is traffic. During her first 100 days as city executive, Mayor Caluag tasked the City Engineer’s Office (CEO), the City General Services Office/Motorpool Division (GSO), and the City Public Order & Safety Coordinating Office (CPOSCO) to fast-track road clearing, conduct clean-up drives and install new LED lights along major thoroughfares of San Fernando to alleviate the heavy build-up of vehicles plying the city.

The CEO and GSO tallied 782 electrical works on streetlights, while the CPOSCO removed old impounded vehicles at the Dolores intersection as early as July. A highlight of these efforts is the shutting-off of the traffic light in front of Vista Mall which has been a perennial problem to motorists as it unnecessarily intercepted the smooth flow of traffic along the MacArthur Highway. The mayor acknowledged the vital role of CPOSCO Focal Person Darius Hizon in this undertaking.

All in all, 33 infrastructure projects are ongoing, while 45 more have been proposed for implementation in 2023.

THE BRIDGES AT SAN JOSE-DEL PILAR AND DELA PAZ SUR 

What remained a real problem for nine years was resolved in two weeks. It took a lady mayor to negotiate with concerned families who opted to remain in their houses that blocked the bridges’ entryways. Trusting Mayor Caluag’s promise to assist them in their need to vacate and relocate, the families left their homes confident that the mayor will keep her word. Demolition followed and the bridge now provides easy access for motorists between Barangays San Jose and Del Pilar where schools and residences are located.

A similar problem was posed by a house and a store on the DelaPaz Sur bridge, with concerned owners placing their confidence and trust in the lady mayor, resulting in an effective solution within a few days, as reported by Mayor Caluag.

INVESTMENTS, PUBLIC MARKETS, AND THE CITY MARKET PLAZA

Investment promotion is an answer to improving the city’s economy that still suffers the consequences of the pandemic. To better the entrepreneurial skills of Fernandino business owners, sets of training, seminars and conferences were spearheaded by Mayor Caluag herself through the City Investment Promotions Office and the Department of Trade and Industry.

The two public markets are subjected to regular drives to ensure the cleanliness and safety of both vendors and marketgoers.

The long-awaited operation of the old public market began with a soft opening held last September 18. This market underwent a total renovation that was completed during Mayor Caluag’s 100 days in office.

TOURISM, CHRISTMAS LIGHTING, AND THE GIANT LANTERN FESTIVAL

San Fernando is popularly known as the Christmas Capital of the Philippines. To prove this, Mayor Caluag said that with the help of the City Tourism Office, she is bent on making this year’s observance of Christmas one of the most beautiful for Fernandinos. To achieve this, in line with her inclusivity principle, the mayor called on five different Fernandino lantern makers to design and create varying lighting displays and decor along 12 locations in the city. Together with these creations is the spectacular display of lights on the grounds of the Heroes Hall that was switched on last September 23.

Free Kalesa tours along the city’s Heritage District and SM Pampanga have also been launched through the efforts of City Tourism head Ching Pangilinan and focal person for tourism Joebee Henson.

In her speech, Mayor Caluag announced having successfully negotiated for increased incentives and awards to participating barangays in the Giant Lantern Festival, considered the city’s top tourism event. She said that she raised the subsidy granted to barangays to enable each of them to come up with their creative entry to the Festival.

To conclude her SOCA, Mayor Vilma Caluag thanked everyone who contributed to her administration’s achievements during her first 100 days, acknowledging the support of the City Council led by Vice Mayor Benedict Jasper “BJ” Lagman, the department heads and focal persons of the LGU, barangay officials and all personnel of the City Government. At the same time, she vowed to work harder on the programs she has started and will continue to look for more ways to improve the lives of every Fernandino.

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