MANILA, MAY 29, 2012 (PHILSTARweek) By Razel Estrella - “Makati can’t be an old city. It can’t be a has been,” said Jejomar C. Binay, then Makati City mayor now Vice President of the Philippines to his son Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr., the incumbent city mayor.

“We’re doing our best to keep Makati the premier city of the Philippines,” said mayor Binay, who, with less than two years in the office, is facing the challenge of filling in his father’s shoes. “We’ve proven this last year,” he continued, “we had a surplus of 2.8 billion and we have increased our local revenue to four billion pesos.”

From a swampland said to be dismissed as worthless by Juan Miguel de Legazpi in 1571, Makati has evolved into the financial and commercial capital of the county. It is the where the Central Business District is located along with thriving service industries, and is number one in the Philippines when it comes to Business Process Outsourcing.

Explaining how Makati achieved this status, Binay said it was a matter of working well with the stakeholders, especially those in the business community. “We are proud to say that we have increased collection even without increasing taxes. We don’t want to be an additional burden to the business community as well as the residents,” he further noted.

Despite Makati’s image as a high-class city, it has attracted people from all walks of life from those in the high-income bracket (particularly in the central business district) to those in the mid-income and low-income brackets. “It’s a good mix, because what we’ve learned is that you can’t be a purely upscale city; otherwise where will the workers come from?” he said.

When asked why people flock to Makati, Binay readily replied: “Because it’s the best place to live in.” For one, the civil servants are trained to be good. The quality free education available along with other student benefits is another reason why a lot transfer to the city. The senior citizens also get to enjoy numerous benefits. “People here are very spoiled,” added Binay with laughter.

Running the city like a businessman

Binay credits much of Makati’s progress in the past years to what his father did invest in the right things. But the bottom line, for him, is good governance: “He was sure of his priorities. He made sure that he would lessen corruption in government. The annual budget back then was around 250 million and there was still a deficit. When he left, Makati’s money was close to 10 billion. As an Ilocano who is very thrifty, my father was able to save a lot of money for the city.”

Like his father, Binay wants to make sure that the city’s money is used on projects that will give them more money in the future to spend. “It’s like you’re a businessman; but you’re not exactly a businessman, since you’re in the government,” he said.

[PHTO -Mayor Jun Binay chats with visiting members of the Rotary International District 9700-Australia]

The mayor’s priorities involve picking up where his father left off finishing the Makati Science High School, fixing the roads, and lighting the streets among other things and then creating new projects and programs.

Science and technology

An area he would like to focus on is science and technology. “We would like to bring in technology as part of good governance,” said Binay. One of his goals is for Makati to have its own science center: “We’re thinking of a 200-square-meter property. We would like to invest heavily on the sciences, because that’s the only way to go. We have to shift from being a lawyer-doctor-engineer-architect society to a more technologically-driven society. It’s really technology that’s shaping the economy.”

One-stop shop

Technology as a tool for good governance is exemplified in a one-stop shop. “If you want to open a new business, all you have to do is go to an office, give your documents, and then you will be given a tracking number. Para wala nang maraming kinakausap pa,” explained Binay. “The process right now is very slow and everyone wants to make it fast. It becomes a source of corruption. Now we will make sure that all the documents get tracked, so we would know where the delay is coming from.” They are currently scouting companies and trying out their services, so that they could have a one-stop shop in the city soon.


[PHOTO -Inside the mayor’s office]

In terms of education, they are looking into replacing bulky books with tablets. “We would like to try it. It’s really a good way to teach your children about science and math,” said Binay.

Aside from improving the educational system with the help of technology, the local government is also finding ways to alleviate the students’ and their parents’ financial burdens. “Parents don’t send their children to school because they’ll have nothing to eat,” shared Binay. “So for the first time, we’re trying to give each student grocery items.” With the new program, they are hoping that parents would be inspired to push their kids to study.

Free uniforms are also given to the students. “Before we just gave them cloth, but they only turn them into curtains, because it’s expensive to have clothes sewn,” he said.

Make Makati a smaller city

At the start of 2010, plans to build Bus Rapid Transits (BRTs) that will traverse from LRT Pasay to Ayala and from JP Rizal to Kalayaan brewed. “The idea is to make Makati smaller,” explained Binay. “What we want is more public transit, more walkways, and more covered walks, so that cars won’t be needed as much in the future.” They will also put up covered walks equipped with fans and CCTVs from Buendia and Makati Avenue to the City Hall.

Urban tourist destination

[PHOTO- Promoting breastfeeding and maternal health care are among the priority programs of Mayor Jun Binay, as shown here during the launch of the city’s Milk-Letting Project.]

Seeing the market for tourism, Makati had recently launched its medical tourism and wellness programs. It will also renew its partnership with Makati Medical Center. “We’re aiming for Makati to be an urban tourist destination,” said Binay, “so we’re gearing toward tourism right now, which will be the next hot money that will come into the country. And we have partnered again with our business sector, which is a good start, because it’s not cheap to be healthy. Our partners will be easy to locate.”

Makati celebrates its 342nd founding anniversary

On June 1, Makati City will be celebrating its 342nd founding anniversary. The month-long celebration includes a Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May) festival and a parade. “Previously, the parade was only done in Ayala Avenue; but this year, we will also go around historical sites,” shared Binay. This will give people a chance to learn about Makati’s heritage, like two of the oldest churches in the Philippines the Nuestra Señora de Gracia church and the Church of Saints Peter and Paul.

Celebrating the event will be everyone from the baranggays to the business community. “As much as we can, we get everyone involved,” he said. “In fact it’s not just Makati, because we have guests coming from the provinces.”

[PHOTO - Mayor Binay is an avid reader. But due to his busy schedule, he finds it best to read while travelling. Some of the recent books he’s read are: Steve Jobs’ biography, Matthew Kahn’s Green Cities, Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.]

Though fairly new in his position as city mayor, Binay has always cared for the city. “I love Makati so much. I was born and raised here. This City Hall’s actually my second home,” he said. Since 1993, he was a councilor and now that he is mayor, he feels like he could do more for Makati: “It’s nice if you are mayor, because you always plan and you get to see what’s going on how things will be developed. You’re really hands-on with the execution. It’s exciting.”

Beyond business and luxury

Makati City has become synonymous to business and luxury. One can’t think of Makati without thinking of Ayala Triangle and Ayala Center with their high-rise buildings, five-star hotels, fancy restaurants, and boutiques. But beyond the bright lights and busy streets lays another side of Makati. The city is also home to historical and cultural sites such as two of the oldest churches in the Philippines and the country’s first commercial airport.

Nuestra Señora de Gracia Church

Nuestra Señora de Gracia Church is a favorite wedding venue. It takes pride in its Doric architecture and sturdy foundation. Built in 1629, the church withstood an earthquake and a fire caused by a fight between Filipinos and Americans in the 1800s. The site also known as the Guadalupe Ruins and is located in Bernadino Street, Guadalupe Viejo, near the Loyola Memorial Chapel.

Church of Saints Peter and Paul

[PHOTO -Makati C3 was launched on September 11, 2006. It has 42 personnel that provide 24-hour service.]

Built in 1620 by the Jesuit priest Father Pedro de los Montes, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul is the first and oldest church in Makati City. Located in Baranggay Poblacion, it is most known for its wooden altar with a carved retablo.

Ayala Museum

The art and history museum established in 1967 was a project of the Ayala Foundation, Inc. (AFI) and was originally located at the Insular Life Building in Ayala Avenue. It was designed by the late National Artist for Architecture, Leandro V. Locsin. Its current building is in Makati Avenue corner Dela Rosa Street and is designed by the firm Leandro V. Locsin and Partners. The museum boasts of hand-crafted dioramas that represent Philippine history.

Museo ng Makati

Built in 1918 at Baranggay Poblacion, the structure that is now Museo ng Makati was formerly the first town hall of Makati City; and it was once occupied by the Municipal Library as well. Aside from viewing ethnographic and archaeological artifacts, one can come here to learn about Makati’s history.

The Filipinas Heritage Library

Formerly a part of Ayala Museum, The Filipinas Heritage Library was transferred in 1996 to Nielson Tower, the country’s first commercial airport, on Makati Avenue. The library, which is a division of AFI, is a one-stop electronic research center in the Philippines. It has over 13,000 volumes on Philippine history and culture and 2,000 rare titles. Its innovations include digitizing its collections, publishing CD-ROMs, and developing web pages and electronic databases.

[PHOTO -“I love Makati so much. I was
born and raised here. This City Hall’s actually
my second home.”]

OnStage theater

Within the walls of Greenbelt malls is an 800-seat multi-entertainment center.

Onstage in Greenbelt 1 is where concerts, stage plays and corporate events are held.

It is also where top theater company Repertory Philippines stages all of its productions.



Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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