LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 7 (PNA) -- Great transformations, from its being elevated to a Highly Urbanized City (HUC) to the coming of more major private investments, are expected of this key Bicol urban metropolis this year.
“Expect good big things to take place from this year on. These will further improve the city’s image as a highly livable urban settlement, playing host to an inflow of big private investments, hundreds of thousands of tourists and enormous social and economic activities leading to inclusive growth,” Mayor Noel Rosal on Thursday said.
Towards being reclassified as a HUC, he said, the official result of the 2015 Population Census (PopCen) conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) last August will officially determine the latest human population figure of the city, which will be among its bases.
The city needs a population of not less than 200,000 to qualify, based on the provision of Republic Act (RA) 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 involving the conversion of a component city into a HUC.
As of the 2010 PopCen, the population of the city was officially counted at 182,201, which the PSA has projected to reach more than 200,000 by this year based on an estimated average annual growth rate of 2.1 percent.
Another criterion needed to be satisfied is local revenue which, according to RA 7160, a component city shall not be converted into a HUC unless its latest annual income is not less than Php500 million “based on 1991 constant prices, as certified by the city treasurer”.
City Budget Officer Obelia Baldano said that in 2015 alone, the City Treasurer’s Office (CTO) has for its record a gross receipt of over Php700 million, a rate of revenue that continues to increase owing to the remarkable growth being achieved by the local business sector and the CTO’s aggressive implementation of its tax collection campaign.
The city government’s budget this year approved by the local legislative council is Php773 million based on the projected total revenue, she added.
With these requirements met, Rosal said, the city government will follow the procedure under Rule II, Article 12 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 7160 on
“Conversion of Component City Into a Highly-Urbanized City”, first of it is the passing of a resolution by the Sanggunian Panlunsod calling for the purpose.
This resolution, after approval and endorsement of the mayor, will be submitted to the President who, within 30 days from receipt, shall, after verifying that the income and population requirements have been met, declare the component city as a HUC.
According to RA 7160, “the conversion of a component city into a highly-urbanized city shall make it independent of the province where it is geographically located”.
Rosal said his administration is dramatically aiming for this conversion that will accelerate further the development of the city into a top-class urban locality being sought by investors for their business investments, thus, opening more job opportunities for the local manpower and more revenue that the local government could use in maximizing the delivery of social services to its people.
In anticipating big private investments, the Php1.5-billion Central City Mall established by Ayala Corp. on the 1.4-hectare property owned by the city government and opened last month will be in full operations soon as the latest entry into the growing number of giant business locators in the city.
SM Prime Holdings, one of the country’s premier shopping management firms, on the other hand, is now readying full-blast construction of its SM City Legazpi within a sprawling prime property at the heart of the city’s bustling business district.
Next in line is the expansion of business operations of Landco Business Park of the Gaisano Grand Group of Companies via the putting up of an additional investment worth around Php2 billion, which would see the establishment of a huge condo hotel and several commercial facilities.
The Cebu-based business conglomerate has studied the project thoroughly and according to its business development manager, Eric Tan, “Legazpi is very much ready for this huge investment.”
The new project, Tan said, is focused on a three-building condotel of 10 stories each within the Gaisano-owned and operated Landco Business Park, a master planned central business district in the heart of the city that the company has developed since 14 years ago and where its Pacific Mall Legazpi, the first full-sized integrated shopping center in, Bicol now stands.
It will be a 600- to 900-room condotel built based on the green economic development that the city adopts in promoting environment-friendly investments which includes green building regulations paired with preference purchasing clauses or marketing programs such as green certification programs for local businesses, Tan added.
Another big thing this year, according to Rosal, is the anticipated expansion of business in the city by the Robinsons Retail Holdings of the Gokongwei Group of companies which plans to put up the Robinsons Galleria Legazpi patterned after the Robinsons Galleria Cebu.
The Gokongwei Group now operates its Robinsons Supermarket and two commercial banks in the city.
“With all these, the city is having the country’s three business giants, plus less known big investors, competing with each other in putting up huge investments in the locality called in the travel industry world the City of Fun and Adventure and recognized as the second most livable city in the Philippines,” Rosal said.
All these good things happening in the city this year are supported by the enormous infrastructural development being initiated by both the national and local governments, one of them is the completion early this year of the Php2-billion flood control project featuring two giant water pumping stations, he said.
This project funded by the national government through the Department of Public Works and Highways would make the city flood-free and an all-weather locality, according to the mayor.
Also this year, the establishment of the international cruise terminal granted by the Tourism Industry and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA). with an initial amount of Php400 million to jumpstart the construction along the shoreline here of Albay Gulf, will be started, Rosal said.
The project involves the construction of an expansive wharf which, according to the Philippine Ports Authority, will be good enough to accommodate the standard size of an international cruise vessel that measures from 250 to 300 meters in length. (PNA) LAP/FGS/DOC/CBD/EDS