Only 34 kilometers south of Manila, Biñan City in Laguna province has served as a suburban residential community of Metro Manila, accessible via the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and the National Highway.
Covering 24 barangays, this sprawling, first class city boasts of two of the largest industrial estates and export processing zones in the country—the Laguna Technopark, Incorporated (LTI) and the Laguna International Industrial Park (LIIP) home to big companies like Bag Electronics and Gardenia.
Before it became a city in 2009 by virtue of Republic Act (RA 9740), Biñan was already the richest municipality in the country, with an annual gross income of P677 million and a net income of P250 million.
Today, Biñan City Mayor Walfredo “Arman” R. Dimaguila Jr. bared that the city averages P1.5B a year in revenues. The said revenue was a result of the previous administration’s effort when Dimaguila was Vice Mayor to Mayor Len Alonte. “This year, I have P2.2 billion. Of that, 45% goes to personnel or salaries. But I make it a point to allocate for infrastructure projects, like road widening. This is to anticipate the growing population and progressive character of Biñan.”
But Biñan hadn’t always been a teeming, city of industrial prospects and progress.
In his youth, mayor Dimaguila said Biñan was a simple, agricultural town, with a bustling shoe and slipper cottage industry in Barangay De la Paz and in Barangay Malaban, where Dimaguila hails from.
The implementation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade–World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO) in the ‘90s severely weakened Biñan’s budding shoe sector. “Almost all the shoemakers closed shop in six months because they could not compete with China products,” he said.
It was imperative for Biñan to reinvent and transform itself from an agricultural municipality to a growth area where jobs are plentiful and people are able to meet their basic needs.
Development came with the influx of investors and the vision of Biñan’s local leaders like Dimaguila.
A lawyer who has spent 17 years of his life as councilor, vice mayor, and mayor of Biñan City, Dimaguila pushed for sound financial administration and social protection.
A Transparency of Full Disclosure policy was posted and updated in Biñan’s online portals, as well as in the Ospital ng Biñan, the old Municipal Hall and the City Hall lobby.
Constituents of Biñan know that their city has six compactors for garbage management, street sweepers, two electric trikes, dump trucks, fire trucks, ambulances, 12 motorcycles distributed to substations, six Hyundai cars used as police patrol cars, two specially-designed tricycles for senior citizens and persons-with-disabilities (PWDs), a dental bus, and a floating patrol called “Biñan Bantay Lawa.”
Situated in Brgy. Poblacion, the Biñan Public Market is the largest public market not only in the province of Laguna but also in the whole of the Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon (CALABARZON) region.
Perspective of wet and dry market
Called the “Divisoria” of the south, this 24/7 public market offers livelihood to farmers and fisherfolk who sell their produce to the market’s myriad stall owners. Retailers from all over Laguna go to Biñan public market to buy merchandise intended to be re-sold.
This year, the Biñan Public Market will undergo renovation. The grand design, according to Dimaguila, is to make Barangay Poblacion, where the market is located, the “identity” of Biñan.
Adopting the Spanish colonial theme of old Biñan, the 1,445.44 square meter market shall have cobbled-stone sidewalks. There will be two floors, with the wet market on the first floor and the dry goods products on the second floor.
The first phase of the renovation will involve the construction of the wet market where one will find 416 stalls that sell fresh meat and fish, seafoods, vegetables and fruits.
Eateries and canteens will join the dry goods section on the second floor, which will be the second phase of the renovation.
“In case of emergencies, the second floor of the market can function as an Evacuation Center, providing shelter for victims of natural disasters,” Dimaguila said.
He added that he had the public toilets air-conditioned to give the market a mall ambiance. “Our comfort rooms will be very clean. And because it’s clean, people will think twice about throwing litter.”
Under Dimaguila’s stewardship, Biñan City achieved an encompassing social protection coverage for its residents, which includes: supplementary feeding programs for children and pregnant women; reading materials and other school supplies to Day Care centers; a robust advocacy combating violence against women (VAW); Lingap sa Mahirap distribution of free caskets and burial assistance; financial assistance for victims of natural disasters and calamities; employment for Persons-with-Disabilities (PWDs) with partner foundations and companies; distribution of free wheelchairs, body braces, and prosthesis; and quarterly pension for some 650 senior citizens.
To date, the pinnacle of social protection in the city is Bahay Pag-asa, a 24-hour child caring institution and intensive juvenile support center composed of four buildings. It serves women, children, and Children in Conflict with the Law (CICL).
“Quality health services empower residents to greater productivity,” Dimaguila said.
To realize a high quality standard, the city-owned Ospital ng Biñan, as well as 24 barangay health centers have been augmented by two city health offices to boost quick response to the people’s health needs.
There is also a Super Health Center (SHC) equipped with a laboratory capable of rendering Direct Smear Sputum Microscopy (DDSM) for suspected tuberculosis patients.
The SHC also offers lying-in services as well as services for minor and simple emergencies.
Biñan City has two City Health Offices (CHO) that offer free dental, pre-natal and post-natal services, general health checkups, free immunization and medical consultations for children from Monday to Friday.
“The city government is investing greatly on the health sector to ensure that the medical needs of the poor are well addressed. The health of our constituents is a top priority,” Dimaguila said.
Dimaguila has his own version of President Duterte’s “Tokhang” anti-illegal drugs campaign.
“We launched Oplan Salikop to eradicate illegal drugs and crimes in all the city’s 24 barangays, applying a balanced approach of medical, psycho-social, community and police engagement to defeat the scourge of illegal drugs in the city,” the Biñan City mayor explained.
Simply put, “Salikop” means a lock down of a barangay. Residents remain in their homes while police and community officials patrol the barangay, complete with radios and bomb-sniffing dogs. At the start of every Salikop, community officials already have a list of drug pushers and drug users in the area.
Dimaguila said that based on their list, Salikop was only administered in four out of Biñan City’s 24 barangays.
He mentioned that fiscals are now required to submit a summary of drug cases to the DOJ, including cases that have been downgraded. So, if a judge suspiciously downgrades a Section 5 (drug pushing) case to Section 11 (possession of prohibited drugs) case, that judge can be sued.
Dimaguila added that caches of drugs were confiscated, almost 120 were imprisoned and about 60 suspected drug pushers and addicts were killed for resisting arrest.
Last Feb. 15, a traditional groundbreaking and capsuling ceremony took place to mark the official construction of the Biñan Science and Technology High School at Silmer Village in Brgy. San Francisco.
Mayor Arman Dimaguila, Vice Mayor Gel Alonte and Congresswoman Len Alonte-Naguiat turned the first turf on the building site which was donated by Ms. Virginia Miriño.
Also in attendance were: Councilor Liza Cardeno, chair of the Committee on Education; other members of the City Council; Department heads; and Engr. Reynan Reyes, in-charge of constructing the edifice.
“Natutuwa naman ako at nagpapasalamat [I am glad and thankful] to Mayor Arman, Vice-Mayor Gel, and Congresswoman Len for having thought of constructing this school that will be of great use to many people,” Miriño said.
First to be built is a four-story building with a total lot area of 6,835 square meters and 6,548 square meters.
“This is a really bold move,” said Dimaguila. “You start with one building and the rest will be a joint effort of the City Government, the Sangguaniang Panlungsod, and Rep. Len. The best and deserving will study in this High School and we will give first priority to the students of Biñan.”
He added that “the city government of Biñan believes that education is the greatest engine of development and so it continues to implement programs that will provide quality and modern education to Biñanenses.”
City Ordinance No. 02 (2018) is “An Ordinance Establishing the Isklolar ng Biñan (INB) Program, Appropriating Funds Thereof and for Other Purposes.”
Piloted by then Mayor Len Alonte and then Vice Mayor Arman Dimaguila, the Ordinance states that the city government of Biñan adopts the declared policy to protect and promote the rights of all students in Biñan City to quality and accessible education.
The city government shall likewise maintain assistance that will be available to students, especially the underprivileged.
The Iskolar ng Biñan (INB) Program provided under these rules shall be limited to all graduating Senior High School students from the City of Biñan starting Academic Year 2018-2019, prioritizing students from Public Senior High Schools, subject to academic standards, application and admission policies and such reasonable rules and regulations of the accredited Colleges and Universities in the City, and is subject to the availability of funds.
A P10,000 financial assistance per semester shall be granted to the recipients of the INB program who passed the Polytechnic University of the Philippines College Entrance Examination (PUPCET) and is enrolled at the PUP Biñan Campus. The grantees shall submit the School Registration Form and/or Certificate of Enrolment issued by the Office of the Campus Director as proof of their enrolment.