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Public service & Sto. Tomas Mayor Edna P. Sanchez: Good thoughts, good deeds, broad visions

It could be said that the “P” in Mayor Edna P. Sanchez stands for “Public service.” In the last nine years, this lady mayor has forged ahead along with a long list of accomplishments heralding her commitment to serve her constituents.

    Sanchez will go down in the history of Sto. Tomas as the mayor who was able to transform this first-class municipality at the foot of legendary and picturesque Mt. Makiling into a first-class component city of Batangas province. It is the fourth city of Batangas, next to Batangas City, Lipa City, and Tanauan City.

    Largely through her lobbying efforts, Pres. Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Republic Act 11086 in October 2018, converting Sto. Tomas into a component city.

    Come September 7, 2019, Republic Act 11086 or the City Charter of Santo Tomas was ratified on a plebiscite by the electorate of Santo Tomas.

POLITICAL HISTORY

Sanchez, 67, came into the political limelight of Sto. Tomas, Batangas in 2004. She first ran and won for mayor of the then municipality and was mayor for six years.

Mayor Edna P. Sanchez with family

    She ran for governor of Batangas province in 2010 after substituting for her husband and then gubernatorial candidate Armando Sanchez, who had died of a heart attack during the 2010 campaign season. The widow Sanchez lost to actress Vilma Santos.

    In 2013, she ran again for mayor and this time won. She is now on her third and last term as mayor, saying that she wasn’t seeking higher office. “I do not have plans of running for higher office. I want to spend more time with my children and grandchildren. I also plan to become a full-time farmer,” Sanchez related in an exclusive Philippines Graphic interview.

FISCAL MANAGEMENT

Fiscal management is one of the strong points of Mayor Sanchez. Before Sto. Tomas became a city, it was listed as the top saver among the 1,450 municipalities of Batangas, leaving P430.96 million back in 2010.

    When Sanchez returned as Sto. Tomas Mayor in 2013, she started with a working budget of P382.51 million which gradually increased every year.

    Under the leadership of Mayor Sanchez, the yearly budget of Sto. Tomas’ municipality gradually increased from P300 million in 2013 to more than P900 million for 2019.        

In 2022, she had a budget of P1.609 billion, roughly five times more than her 2013 budget.

    The financial statements under the Sanchez administration registered second to Binan, Laguna in Current Assets and number six among the top 10 municipalities with the highest net income.

    According to the Commission on Audit, Sto. Tomas is the Fourth Richest Municipality in terms of Assets for the year 2018. The municipal received the “Seal of Child Friendly Local Governance,” a regional award for 2018. Sto. Tomas also ranked 3rd place in Economic Dynamism for 1st and 2nd Class Municipalities in the 2018 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index.

HEALTH & SANITATION

Mayor Edna P. Sanchez as a nurse before she became an elected government official

Being a nurse by profession, one of Sanchez’ pet projects is health and sanitation. Her achievements include the establishment of the Sto. Tomas Municipal Hospital in 2008

    Other health and sanitation programs include the continuous operation of the Basic Emergency Obstetrics and Newborn Care BEmONC facility for safe and affordable delivery.

    Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Sanchez already had a robust vaccination program for the indigent elderly citizens of Sto. Tomas.

    At the height of the pandemic, the city government met the vaccination needs of Sto. Tomasinos through able vaccination teams led by Dr. Fernan Macrin Ramos, Medical Officer III.

Dr. Fernan Macrin Ramos, Medical Officer III, with a Sto. Tomas vax team

    There was also the continuous implementation of a Healthy Lifestyle Program at the town plaza which included tubal ligation services twice a week, mammograph for women in cooperation with St. Frances Cabrini Hospital, bone screening, pap smear, family planning lectures, and operation tuli (circumcision).

    Sto. Tomas has a functioning anti-TB program and in 2013, Sanchez set up the Klinica ng Bayan for the Poblacion area. There was likewise the weekly Sagip Mata free eye operation and the mobile clinic which started in 2004, providing medical and dental services to remote barangays twice a week.

    Other health services included the Hypertension and Diabetic Clubs at the barangay levels, deworming of malnourished children, reconstruction surgeries of the cleft lip and palate for children, and massive dengue prevention activities through fumigation.

SOCIAL WELFARE

Mayor Sanchez with Senior Barangay presidents

Mayor Sanchez established programs that benefited the city’s senior citizens. One of the hallmark programs of Mayor Sanchez is the Mutual Aid Program through the Sto. Tomas Federation of Senior Citizens. This provides aid ranging from P27,000 to P35,000 to the families of deceased senior citizens.

    According to Roselyn N. Libuit, City Social Welfare Department Officer, Sanchez launched the Natal Day incentive program for registered senior citizens. Under the program, each senior citizen received a birthday cash gift of P500 from the local government. A total of P7.241 million was allotted to 14,482 senior citizens.

    Some 2,178 senior citizens, identified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), receive a social pension amounting to P6,000 annually per senior citizen. A total of 300 indigent bed-ridden senior citizens benefit from the mayor’s LOCAL-Guillerma L. BilogSocial Pension Program for the Bedridden. About P500 per month are given to them to help augment their medical needs.

    City Administrator Salvador M. Geling and the Department of Education’s Sto. Tomas North District and Sto. Tomas South District—represented by their respective Public School District Supervisors Olivia J. Deocariza and Guillerma L. Bilog—signed a memorandum of agreement to provide employment opportunities for Persons With Disabilites (PWDs).

    The local government also managed to cater to the needs of persons with orthopedic disabilities. Five beneficiaries were provided with assistive devices like wheelchairs and crutches to help improve their mobility.

    Mayor Sanchez likewise led in the creation of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office to handle disaster, emergency and rescue operations in the days when Sto. Tomas was still a municipality.

EDUCATION

In 2013, Sto. Tomas registered a literacy rate of 97.79%. To maintain this percentage, Mayor Sanchez made possible the construction of seven two-story Mayor Edna P. Sanchez (EPS) school buildings in elementary and high schools.

    A Speech Laboratory at the Sta. Anastacia-San Rafael Elementary School was likewise constructed.

    The city government of Sto. Tomas implemented and extended an EPS Scholarship Program to the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), Batangas State University, and the Tanauan Institute to cater to poor but deserving students.

    In 2010, Mayor Sanchez instituted the Sentrong Sanayang Teknikal ng Kabataan (SST) Training Center for technical-vocational courses for out-of-school youths.

AGRICULTURE

According to Ofelia F. Malabanan, Sto. Tomas Agriculturist of the City Agriculture Office, one of the major agricultural achievements of Mayor Sanchez is spearheading the introduction and adoption of organic farming back in 2015.

(L-R): Budget Officer Nennette P. Maño, City Agriculturist Ofelia F. Malabanan, Tourism City Officer Daniel P. Darusin and City Environment Officer Jemuel V. Calinawan

    The city government is currently developing the Sto. Tomas Agri-Park and Organic Learning Center. It is envisioned to become an agri-tourism site. Free range chicken are currently being raised there and a pond for azolla is also being constructed.

    “The five- to six-hectare piece of land where the agri-park is being constructed is owned by the city government. Recently, we accidentally discovered that there is actually a hot spring in the area so the mayor decided that we should also construct a swimming pool there,” related City Tourism Officer Daniel P. Darusin.

    In addition to constructing three swimming pools at the Agri-Park, there will also be a station of the cross and a maze that will be surrounded by plants and a hotel.

    “We are hoping to open the pool by March and this is going to help boost tourism here in Sto. Tomas,” Darusin said.

ENVIRONMENT

Of equal importance to Mayor Sanchez is the city’s efforts to safeguard the environment. The legacy that the mayor will be leaving behind is a 10-year Solid Waste Management Plan which was approved in 2017.

    According to City Environment Officer Jemuel V. Calinawan, not too many local government units have an approved plan. “Since its approval, we have been implementing the programs and projects that were laid out in the plan.”

    One of the key issues that the city is facing in terms of solid waste management is waste segregation and collection. Since the national government issued a directive that no open dump site facility will be allowed to operate beginning 2006, Calinawan said they had no choice but to minimize the amount of garbage that is being collected from households and other establishments.

    “As much as possible, only residual wastes shall be allowed in our transfer stations and other classified wastes such as biodegradable and recyclable will not be collected by our garbage collectors,” he said.

    For the time being, the city’s solid waste is being collected by a private hauling company. Under the 10-year plan, Sto. Tomas will eventually have its own sanitary landfill.

    “The local government is planning to buy a seven-hectare lot in Barangay Vicente for the landfill. Recently, personnel from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau inspected the proposed landfill site to see if it is possible for that purpose. The plan is to develop a Category 2 sanitary landfill that is usable for 10 to 12 years,” Calinawan said.

TOURISM

Every year during the last week of February to March 7, residents of Sto. Tomas, Batangas gather to celebrate the Mahaguyog Festival.

Mahaguyog Festival celebration

    The term “Mahaguyog” is a combination of the city’s major agricultural products such as mais (corn), halamang gulay (vegetables) and niyog (coconut). It is celebrated in honor of Sto. Tomas’ patron saint, St. Thomas Aquinas, as a gesture of gratitude and thanksgiving of the farmers for their bountiful harvest the whole year round.

    The Mahaguyog Festival also supports the One-Town, One-Product program of the national government that promotes livelihood and entrepreneurship through agri-tourism.

    By the year 2027, Sto. Tomas, according to its 10-year Solid Waste Management Plan, shall be able to attain the following: “leading haven for tourism and investments, healthy and empowered citizens living in safe, clean and peaceful environment, good governance and multi-sectoral interaction geared towards socio economic growth through sustainable development.”

    Three of the main tourism attractions in Sto. Tomas are the Mahaguyog Festival, as well as the Agri-Park and the Organic Learning Center, which showcases agri-eco tourism.

    Sto. Tomas is the birthplace of Miguel Malvar, the last general to surrender to the Americans during the Philippine-American war. The city government built at the City Hall compound a museum in Malvar’s honor, which displays his photos, paintings and other memorabilia.

National Shrine of St. Padre Pio in Barangay San Pedro

    The city government actively encourages Faith Tourism. Its most prominent destination is the famous Parish and National Shrine of St. Padre Pio which is located in Barangay San Pedro. It is the first parish in the Philippines under the patronage of the Capuchin Saint. The parish was elevated into a National Shrine with the approval of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines in 2015.

    Other faith destinations include the St. Tomas Aquinas Parish in Barangay Poblacion III and the St. Claire of Assisi Parish in Brgy. Sta. Clara.

AWARDS

Award for best municipality in governance

During her term, Mayor Sanchez received numerous awards and accolades. According to the Commission on Audit, Sto. Tomas achieved the distinction of being the fourth richest municipality in terms of assets for the year 2018.

    The municipality also received the “Seal of Child Friendly Local Governance,” a regional award for 2018. In 2017 and 2018, the then municipality of Sto. Tomas ranked third in economic dynamism for 1st and 2nd class municipalities in the Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness category.

    Sto. Tomas received the Special Nutrition Award in 2015 for being one of the Top Three Municipalities with the “Lowest Malnutrition Prevalence Rate in the Region for 2014.”

    Sto. Tomas was also awarded the Green Banner Seal of Compliance by the National Nutrition Council and was recognized as Hall of Famer by 2020.

    It also received a Certificate for Good Financial Housekeeping for CY 2014” from the Department of Interior and Local Government.

    Sto. Tomas was the recipient of the “Certificate of Compliance with Full Disclosure Policy” certified by the Regional Office of the Bureau of Local Government Supervision of the DILG.

    In 2013, the municipal government was recognized as the “Best Performing Employer 2013” by the Pag-ibig Fund. Sto. Tomas was named a Co-Awardee of the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve as it was declared an Asean Heritage Park in accordance with the ASEAN Declaration on Heritage Parks.

    In 2005 and 2006, the Sto. Tomas Municipal Committee came in first place for unqualified support for the Nutrition Program given by the Provincial Government of Batangas.

    For three straight years, from 2004 to 2006, Sto. Tomas was declared the Winner in “Category A” in the Provincial Search of Gawad Pangulo sa Kapaligiran for being the Cleanest and Greenest Municipality in Batangas. It was also the Top Five Awardee during the Gawad Pangulo sa Kapaligiran during the 2004 Nationwide Search for Model Barangays on Ecological Waste Management System.

    In addition to the awards that Sto. Tomas received, Sanchez also held positions in several government organizations.

    From 1998 to 2004, she served as the president of the Municipal Women’s Coordination Council and president of the Sto. Tomas Ladies Club. From 2004 to 2007, Sanchez was the president of the Provincial Women’s Coordinating Council of Batangas. She was likewise Director of the Lady Mayors League of the Philippines in Region IVA from 2004 to 2010.

    From 2007 to 2010, she served as the Director of the League of Municipalities–Batangas Chapter. From 2013 to the present, she is a Director of the Lady Mayors League of the Philippines Region IVA.

    It is said that Mayor Sanchez was able to achieve all these accomplishments with the unqualified support of Sto. Tomas Vice Mayor Armenius O. Silva.

    “We support the mayor through (local) legislation so that the mayor will be able to implement her programs. To the people who say that the Sangguniang Panlugsod is not doing anything, they are wrong. We are the ones who are approving all of the Mayor’s projects,” Silva said.

    When asked how she wanted to be remembered, Mayor Sanchez said she wanted to be remembered as the mayor who transformed Sto. Tomas into a city.  “I was able to achieve a great deal for Sto. Tomas. It’s now my time to rest and become a farmer. I have already started planting mango trees and other fruits and I hope to enjoy the fruits of my labor soon.”

Anne Ruth Dela Cruz
Anne is a seasoned journalist and corporate communications specialist. After 13 years in the health care industry, she is back to where she started—print media.

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