THE insights below are from my high school classmate, Gwyn Clarisa, who is now working in a bank in Davao City. So much negative perception has been said about Gen. Santos City and the SOCSKSARGEN region that we tend to miss out on the positive, promising things about our place. Gwyn shares with us 22 of such good things about Gensan:
1. For 2004, the country’s estimated corn production reached 5 Million metric tons. Of which 1.9MM metric tons came from Southern Mindanao and 950,000 metric tons came from the SOCSKSARGEN Area. Estimated annual gross revenue from corn production in SOCSKSARGEN reached P9.0 Billion in 2004.
2. The tuna industry in General Santos contributes around 4% of the country’s Gross National Product (GNP).
3. Our city is blessed with dynamic and active businessmen who do their share in promoting the city and generating much needed business activities in the area. In fact, our business sector started the now popular Tuna Festival. Seeing how effective the festival is in promoting business and tourism in the area, the local government extended its support on its second year and adopted the festival as their own and included it as one of their important activities every year.
In 2003, the festival committee invited then Department of Tourism Secretary, Richard Gordon, to observe the festival. What impressed Senator Gordon then is the involvement of the business community and their desire and commitment to help. The festival is now a regular activity of the DOT and is included in its yearly calendar of activities for WOW Philippines.
Senator Gordon participated in most activities including the “Disco sa Kalye Night” where more than ten thousand people participated and no untoward incident happened. This prompted Senator Gordon to promote to the world that General Santos is a safe place to live and invest in. And that the perceived peace and order problem is just that, perception. Until now he’s still doing that.
4. Our airport is one of the best in the country and is of international standards. Our runway is simply the best in the country. Constructed under American standards, it is also the safest as its runway boasts of a smooth surface unlike most of our airports including NAIA. When landing from the seaside, the runway seems to float as it is built on a higher and elevated plain guaranteeing a safe and very comfortable landing.
5. The Philippine Air Lines can fly its GenSan to Manila route without worrying on how many passengers would actually fly with them. That is because the amount of cargo that goes out of General Santos can compensate for the lack of passengers that fly with them. I’m not saying they lack the passengers but the point is, there’s just so much products that comes from our city to Manila. That means that a lot of our local produce goes to Manila and there are just a lot of products here. Merong negosyo sa ating lugar.
6. Mindanao is FMD (foot-and-mouth-disease) free and is Bird Flu Virus free. That means our livestock and poultry industries remain unaffected by these animal-borne diseases. SOCSKSARGEN is home to the country’s biggest piggery in terms of sow level. We also contribute about 20% of the country’s livestock and poultry requirements.
7. We are the best next to Northern Mindanao in terms of layer/broiler breeding. Most companies like San Miguel, RFM, Vitarich and Bounty Agro locate their breeding farms in SOCSKSARGEN if not in Northern Mindanao. Second also to Roxas City in terms of shrimp production.
Navotas used to rank First in terms of actual tonnage in Fish Landings per day. We were only second to them. There’s not much business now in Navotas given that most sardines maker relocated to the Zamboanga Peninsula while we maintained our volume. Note that the Sardines industry contributes about 4% also of our GNP. We are a sardines-loving nation and General Santos City supplies around 30% of the industry’s fish requirements.
8. In the 70’s and early 80’s, General Santos was known as a City of Dust. In the late 80’s and early 90’s, it was called a Boomtown. Now others refer to it as a “Bust Town” but the truth is at present we are still enjoying the benefits of its being a boom town.
9. The city has been transformed from a city of dust into one of the country’s cities with well-paved roads. Add to that is the fact that our forefathers have the foresight to plan the city’s future well ahead of their time. Our road network is the widest in the country and it always amuses first-timers in the city to see how wide our roads are. Also, lots are mostly regularly shaped thus we have well shaped roads unlike those in cities like Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro and Davao City. One negative comment that the city got was the fact that we don’t have Paved sidewalks. I always laugh at this kind of observation. How can we pave our sidewalks when at present our sidewalks are much wider than both sides of our paved roads? And our paved roads are already what? Three lanes on both sides?
10. With wide roads come light traffic. Yes, we still have that luxury in our city. We can travel in one place to another without wasting much of our time on the road.
11. Less hassles on parking areas. Yes, we don’t have parking space problems. While Zamboanga, Davao and CDO already have their share of parking spaces problems, we still do not have that in Gensan.
12. While our fiscal managers may not be the best there is in their fields, they are at least doing quite well for us.
Consider this, our city joins Davao, Zamboanga and CDO among the top ten income-generating cities in the country for 2004. We however trail the three as they are in the top five. Davao has a lot of businessmen investing in their area, Zamboanga boasts of those from the Sardines Making Industry while CDO have the support of the steel and power generating industry.
However, our major difference with them is the fact that much of the Income that we generate really goes back to the people as much as we intend them to be. Although the major portion of the income generated by the local government goes to salaries and wages of our government workers, substantial portions also goes for the developmental projects of the government.
Compared to the other three cities mentioned, we have lower borrowings Than them thus we are paying lower interests than the others.
Come to think of it, we have more money than the other cities even if we are earning less than them. That’s because we don’t borrow much. The three other cities need to borrow to fund their projects as well as fund the national government’s projects intended for their city.
As it is, our National Government doesn’t have the money, although they still plan projects to “help” our cities. But they still have to source out the funding for these, either thru internally generated funds (i.e. BIR & Customs collections, GOCC contributions) or thru borrowings. For cities to realize these projects immediately, the local government can fund the project and have it reimbursed by the National Government.
That’s what most cities do. They fund the projects to make sure that the projects get done and not cancelled and funds intended for it are not transferred to another project. The three cities mentioned earlier, Borrow from financial institutions to be able to fund the projects. We are lucky we seldom resort to that. (Kahit papano, marunong pa ring mag-isip kahit kakaunti ang ating mga local government officials compared to officials of other cities.). We get the project by funding it ourselves and when we get reimbursed, these are again used for local projects.
In short, we get more value on the use of the income our city generates, compared to the three other cities but we still have to work on the burgeoning local bureaucracy and the quality of service that they provide. The latter problems however are not exclusive to us but are also present to the three other local governments mentioned so actually, we are really better off than them.
13. Prices of commodities, cost of living in General Santos is still minimal. Mas mura at presko ang ating mga isda, baboy, baka, mga prutas at gulay. Additionally, kung mas masipag-sipag lang din tayo, eh makakapagtanim-tanim pa rin tayo at makapag-alaga pa rin ng manok, baboy at kung ano pang hayop sa ating mga bakuran.
14. And yes, your favorite Lion’s Beach has already improved. Wala nang mga squatters. Its cleanliness and general appearance has actually improved. The local government has a very good development plan for the area and we hope it gets implemented.
15. The city has the highest employment rate in the country today, what with its more than 90% employment rate. Much of this employment is due to the plants and canneries in the area, which are all labor-intensive.
Additionally, the fishing industry provides a very lucrative alternative to employment. (i.e. fishing, trading, financing, brokering and all other businesses that can be generated from the industry.)
16. Yung dating tinatawag nating Uhaw is now the city’s most populous Barangay. And yes, wala ng gaanong problema sa tubig, courtesy of our local water system company. General Santos City remains one of the country’s fortunate cities with adequate supply of potable water that can last for the next hundred years. Imagine and compare that with Cebu’s problem. Maaring mawalan na sila ng potable drinking water in 20 years time. They are already looking at possible cooperation with the local government of Bohol for their water supply or possible construction of desalination plants to provide for their water requirements.
17. We have at least four malls. KCC, Gaisano Mall, RD Plaza which also houses Fit Mart and SM (Sa Maranao). That’s too much choices already for a city of 450 thousand people.
18. If you are on the lookout for investments, buying pieces of properties in General Santos City is recommended. Real estate prices in the city are presently down given the bad peace and order situation perception but the outlook in the future (10 to 20 years from now) is generally promising.
19. Around 30% of the country’s rice produce in 2004 come from the SOCSKSARGEN and North Cotabato area. Around 40% of the country’s vegetables and fruits come from the same area. All in all, Mindanao provides around 45% of the country’s food requirements.
20. Rodrigo Rivera, the city’s most prominent businessman is one of the country’s best entrepreneurs for 2004. In fact he was named the country’s best entrepreneur in the field of agriculture. He was credited for helping build and putting where it is now the Fishing Industry in the country and in Asia-Pacific. As it is, Mr. Rivera still has substantial investments in our city and continually helps in its progress and development. He believes so much in our city, why can’t we?
21. 60% of our land is productive. The remaining 40% is still a large place to improve on but that statistics says that our area is the most productive area in the country today. Masisipag yung mga tao natin and just for that, it says a lot. Napakalaki ng tsansa ng ating lugar given the kind of populace that we have. In terms of population growth, we are growing by more than 10%, far higher than the national growth rate. But if we take a closer look at it, most of the growth is attributed to migration to our place.
More and more Filipinos are finding our place safer and profitable to live in. Fact is, only 2.5% of the more than 10% growth in population in the city can be attributed to childbirth. Hindi lang tayo mas masipag, mas responsable pa.
22. Our city has produced a lot of talented and productive citizens of this country. Among them are senior officers of various banks in our country, successful businessmen and OFWs. And what’s more, all of these people have never turned their backs on our city. Though most of them are away, their hearts and minds are still where their home is.
Above are just 22 of many positive aspects of our city. Let’s go beyond the thinking that the only good thing about our city is our tuna and Manny Pacquiao.
Instead, let’s train ourselves to think that apart from Tuna and Manny Pacquiao, there is still a lot of good things in our city.
And for the areas that our city has failed, we are still working on it.
(You may write Bronx Hebrona at P.O. Box 46430, Gen. Santos City 9500, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts Radyo Negosyo, a weekly radio program that promotes entrepreneurship and financial literacy, every Sunday at 9-10 am over DXBB AM (RGMA Superadyo) at 1107 KHz. He is President-Convenor of the Socsargen Financial Intelligence Network, Inc., which promotes financial literacy and entrepreneurship in the region)