“Unity” is a concept that has often been misinterpreted and misused many times by the ruling political class in our nation’s history.
But in the context of local politics here in Laguna province, here’s how “unity” should be defined: leaders setting aside their personal and political differences and work together towards a common goal.
It’s amazing what leaders can do when they forget politics and focus on the development of their town or city.
And in Laguna province alone, we’ve seen concrete examples of how leaders can achieve much for their constituents when they work together.
Take for example the city of Biñan where the current brand of unity promoted by its “Big Three” leaders – Mayor Arman Dimaguila, Vice Mayor Gel Alonte and Representative Len Alonte – has resulted in the city’s continued socio-economic growth.
Under former City Mayor and now Representative Len Alonte, residents saw a transformation of Biñan City from a sleepy market town to one of the fastest-growing residential and industrial hubs in the province of Laguna.
Under her successor, Mayor Dimaguila, Biñan City made great strides in promoting the welfare of its residents while at the same time wooing investors – from small businesses to multinational conglomerates – to set up business in the city.
While politics in Biñan City tends to become heated (especially during election periods), the city’s leaders have, overall, displayed a united front to their constituents. It should also be noted that partisan politics are never an issue in Biñan City, except during elections.
And statistics have shown how a “united” government in Biñan City has achieved the kind of growth many LGUs in Laguna province has aspired for.
Biñan City has steadily improved at the Competitiveness Rankings of Component Cities of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which ranks cities and municipalities based on an overall competitiveness score. This is the tally on economic dynamism, government efficiency, infrastructure, and resiliency.
From an overall score of 38.2368 (ranking 35th) in 2015, Biñan City now ranks 6th with an overall score of 45.62 in the Competitiveness Index by 2022.
Meanwhile, the current poverty index in Biñan City has also steadily declined, from 7.92 percent in 2010 to 1.69 percent in 2018.
“With its proximity to Metro Manila, Biñan is one of the most susceptible places for investments, industries, and other economic activities. The two world-class and premiere industrial parks of the Philippines are located in Biñan, The Laguna International Industrial Park (LIIP) and the Laguna Technopark Association, Inc., (LTAI). The city is now transforming into a more competitive, progressive, and one of the major growth areas in the Calabarzon region,” the Regional Development Council (RDC) once pointed out in 2021.
New Faces, Same Old Politics?
By contrast is the neighboring city of San Pedro, where partisanships and “kampihan” have been part and parcel of the city’s political landscape.
While political violence had never been a part of the city’s political landscape, the fierce rivalry between political families in San Pedro City was manifested by officials snubbing events of those not belonging to their political camp; the intense “black propaganda” against candidates during elections, and “vengeance politics” such as withholding priority programs or even legal action against local leaders who have run afoul of the ruling administration.
And even as Mayor Art Mercado, who took office last year, has urged all officials and residents to unite in his common goal for San Pedro to become “Una sa Laguna,” pockets of conflict remain among the city’s rivaling political factions.
One such case is the issue of two city councilors whose proclamation in the 2022 national and local elections has been blocked on legal technicalities.
As reported by OpinYon Laguna last week, these two councilors were caught in a legal web concerning the status of San Pedro City as the lone member of the 1st legislative district of Laguna.
However, sources have informed OpinYon Laguna that the issue has morphed into a struggle for political control of the Sangguniang Panglungsod, as the two councilors were members of the political coalition whom Mercado’s team defeated in the 2022 polls.
Slower Economic Growth
Internal politicking has, unfortunately, led to a “slower” economic growth for San Pedro City. This is a fact that OpinYon Laguna once pointed out in 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic, when it noted that the city has remained “stagnant” with few opportunities for economic growth.
And no glaring example of this slow economic growth could be found in the DTI’s Competitiveness Rankings of Component Cities.
From 48th place (with an overall score of 36.54) in 2015, San Pedro City inched to just 26th place, with an overall score of 38.38, by 2022.
According to that same index, San Pedro City has lagged behind in several economic indicators such as presence of “active establishments in the locality” (110th place), social protection (84th place), availability of basic Internet service (75th place), capacity of social services (62nd place), and sanitary systems (58th place).