A third of the people in the Philippines’ largest city are below the poverty line, its Mayor says.

The re-elected Mayor of Quezon City, Herbert Bautista, wants to prioritise those who have been left behind in the hustle and bustle of the city, he tells GovInsider. “In the new term, there will be more social inclusivity in our programmes”.

Mayor Bautista was re-elected for his third and final term in elections in May. In his first two terms, he prioritised housing for the homeless and cleaning up the city’s litter. The Mayor’s new initiatives will focus on helping the elderly, disabled and school drop-outs, he says.

Social inclusion

The city government will provide lessons outside of classrooms for children who have dropped out, he pledges. For instance, Quezon recently partnered with the federal Department of Science and Technology to provide free computer lessons in the city’s 147 communities.

Elected community leaders have been put in charge of identifying drop-outs and encouraging them to take the courses. The local leaders “know the people inside the communities, and have already identified those who are in need of this programme”, Bautista says.

Another key focus is to provide healthcare for the elderly and the disabled. Bautista plans to create specific programmes for different age groups. The government will also create programmes to treat both physical and mental illnesses, he says. Every year the city will allocate 1% of its budget for seniors and the disabled each.

Better data needed

Quezon City now needs to build up data to ensure that these benefits reach the right hands, he believes. Family members sometimes take undue advantage of benefits given to their relatives, while others get fake age proofs showing them as senior citizens. “There are a lot of wise guys in the Philippines who can say they are senior citizens,” Bautista says. The city needs better data to prove who is eligible to receive the benefits.

The first step will be to improve its population data on births and deaths. “We are strengthening our civil registry office,” the Mayor says. Better population data will allow it to track the age of each citizen, and “we will be able to identify how many of those have turned into senior citizens”.
The city’s units for senior citizens and the disabled are also improving data collection. These units are gathering data on the economic and social profile of the elderly and people with disabilities.

Better data on the elderly, disabled and drop-outs will also allow the government to create more targeted programmes, he believes. “The programmes have to be designed appropriately, so that it’s target-specific, and not just a shot-gun project,” he says. Data will help the city design schemes aimed at specific cases and age-groups.

Central operations centre

Like many Mayors in the region, Bautista intends to launch a central operations centre to monitor disasters, crimes and traffic. The centre connects with 360 CCTV cameras in major roads, government offices and public schools. The city last week also partnered with the federal Land Transport Organisation to exchange data on traffic, road safety and vehicle-related crimes.

The operations centre could be expanded to coordinate other public services, Mayor Bautista believes. For instance, officials can monitor homeless people through the CCTV and notify the social services department to provide support, he says.

The city will set up a call centre for residents to complain. The operations centre will also use social media to listen to their feedback. “If citizens see something that needs attention from the city government, they can tweet, email or instagram,” the Mayor says.

City departments must be equipped to address issues raised by citizens. “The more important part of the programme is the immediate reaction of the city government,” he says. Departments will set up a “quick reaction team” to respond to complaints.

New strategy unit

Mayor Bautista wants more collaboration across the city government. He plans to set up a “strategic planning” division which will recommend steps to improve coordination across future programmes. “What we want to is to synergise their work,” he says. “It has to be various offices or departments taking care of one segment of society.” The new division will be set up either directly under the Mayor or the head of city administration.

Technology will be a key part in improving coordination, he believes. “Each and every department is now upgrading its programmes for more efficient database gathering,” the Mayor says.

The people of Quezon have rewarded Mayor Bautista with nine years at the helm of the city. He must now ensure that no one is left behind in the chaotic bustle of the Philippine metropolis.

Image from Quezon City Government