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Zamboanga City, a Bonsai


Our local government is classified officially as a “Highly Urbanized City” (HUC), no more, no less. It’s not a metro city or a mega city. Despite its gargantuan territory, it has not kept pace with the fast-speeding and growing Metro cities such as Manila, Cebu, and Davao. Even in the NEDA classification, Zamboanga City is not included in the list of 12 metro cities of the Philippines. So let’s not give a fake classification of our city. In Visayan, calling Zamboanga City, a metro city, could be considered purely “talo-talo.”

Just to provide the factual information to interested parties, I am enumerating the 12 NEDA classified Metropolitan areas in the Philippines as follows: Manila, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Angeles, Iloilo, Bacolod, Naga, Baguio, Batangas, Dagupan, Olongapo. (Source: Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia)

It is for this snail-paced mode of progress for decades now that we have been urging our responsible political officials to adopt a holistic, equitable, broad-band, resource-based, need-centered, and futuristic development paradigm to speed up the over-all growth of Zamboanga City to the level of a metropolis. But every time we make this suggestion, we are called all sorts of horrible names, such as “dark forces,” “creators of chaos” “out to dismember Zamboanga City” “wise monkeys” and “envidiosos.”How could we be deservingly called “envidiosos” when we don’t have even the slightest fascination to hold any political position? We have not even applied for a janitor or street sweeper’s position or approached any politician for any favor.

We just want Zamboanga City to grow and expand development wise, toward the country side so that the influx of people to the center will be reversed and make the strangling and suffocating crowdedness, the intoxicating garbage problem, the all-time high criminality, the paralyzing traffic mess, and all other grave social and economic ills  politically manageable and socially tolerable. Is it an act of evil to create other government units that will elevate the barangays to municipalities and later on to cities? Is it an act of creating chaos to provide the barangays their own municipal halls, hospitals, police stations, malls,  and all other facilities, amenities and  services that a city can provide to the people? Is it an act of evil to empower the barangay officials and all the residents to run the affairs of their own government independently from the city if it is allowed by law? Rest assured that when these development dreams become realities, we will not be one of their political officials.         

As it appears now, it is not us who are actually obstructing or stunting the growth and progress of Zamboanga City, but those who consummately want Zamboanga City to be perpetually under their oligarchic or dynastic control with only the 7-kilometer radius as its center of development and keeping the 98-brangays forever like babies whose life-support systems metaphorically are all attached to a multi-million gyrating fountain of day-to-day existence. So we have an extremely rare case of a very small area that is highly urbanized, commercialized, industrialized, and over-crowded while the 95 percent of the more that 1, 475 sq. kilometers of territory remains “cogonal,” “piedragal,”” savannal”, and “sacatal.” This kind of landscape isolated and willfully neglected by the focus of progress will continue to hound us if this myopic or microscopic development genre prevails. Zamboanga City has remained a micro city for the last 76 years while its contemporaries are already full-fledged Metro Cities and those which were just barangays or municipalities before are now cities much more advanced and progressive than ours.

It might be of interest to the general public that the smallest city in the Philippines is only more than five square kilometers in area.  Yet, the Mayor in this city could not provide everyone a decent job and home. Zamboanga City can accommodate more than 300 cities of this size by comparison in terms of territorial jurisdiction. If the Mayor of a city as small as 5 sq. km. cannot provide adequately all the basic necessities, security, and safety of its inhabitants, can a mayor of a local government unit with a population of almost a million and a territory of more than l, 475 Sq. Km not including the areas in between and around its 28 component islands, deliver the same services for their normal daily existence? If your answer is yes, then he must belong to the extremely rare league of the supernatural. His DNA must be mass-replicated and be distributed all over the world for the welfare of humanity and for the sake of global prosperity.

We are not talking here of personalities but issues of development and leadership styles. We do not resort to name-calling as easily as when we disagree with anyone or merely because we differ in opinions and perspectives in matters having to do with public power and governance. We express our ideas for or against issues of general interest and concern no matter how life-threatening it is for us. This is the “clear and constant danger” we have to face and the extremely costly price we have to pay for exercising our political rights and civil liberties. As ordinary columnists, we confront these overwhelming odds and risks on a moment to moment basis with nothing on our side but the faith in the goodness of humanity and the divine grace of peacefulness in the heart of every man. Admittedly we don’t have any protective shield against the tyrannical intentions and oppressive passions of hardcore plutocrats. We can be eliminated any time, any place, any manner, and with any weapon the powers-that-be think it will effectively and efficiently accomplish the plot without any trace. Many of our colleagues were even demonically buried mechanically alive.

So if we believe that Zamboanga City’s progress should be expanded and distributed holistically, justly, and equitably toward the remotest areas so that the inhabitants will have equal opportunity to enjoy its benefits, it’s nothing but an intellectual expression of a reasonable and desirable development aspiration and not because we have ulterior motives, evils designs or grand political ambitions.

By the way, why don’t you like the barangays to become municipalities and then cities if they meet the requirements of the local government code? Why don’t you like them to grow politically according to the criteria set by law? Will you not be proud if one of your barangays will someday become a city? Will you not be proud if 5 of your barangay Chairmen will become municipal mayors? Will you not be proud to see provincial, city, and provincial government centers flourishing within the huge territorial jurisdiction Zamboanga City and in the process recapture its historical Crown of Progress and Development in Mindanao? And will you not be proud if Zamboanga City will finally be classified as a full-fledged Metro City? All these outstanding development achievements will be credited to no one else but the Mayor of the Mother Government Unit and the legislators responsible in Congress.  

Who is now keeping Zamboanga City a Bonsai? I’m afraid it’s not us!

By Clem M. Bascar

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