Combining Health & Investments
Nestled at the foot of picturesque Mt. Makiling, the large, mainly agricultural población of Sto. Tomas is one of the oldest towns in Batangas province. According to Spanish historian Manuel Sastron, the residents of the landlocked town raised and sold rice, sugarcane, peanuts, garlic, and oranges.
Sto. Tomas became a primary enclave of the Spanish in South Luzon, some 145 years after the explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed and claimed the islands of the Philippines in the name of King Philip II of Spain.
Officially founded in 1666, Sto. Tomas is named after St. Thomas Aquinas, with its 30 barangays renamed to assume the names of saints. In 1807, the stone church of St. Thomas Aquinas was built near the San Juan River.
Time would see the town develop from being a third-class municipality to a first-class municipality, while still remaining a largely agricultural town.
In 2019, the town of Sto. Tomas finally became a component city of Batangas. But the promise of progress that came with cityhood was backstabbed a year later by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadliest health menace to afflict the Philippines and the world.
Two years later, in 2022, under newly-elected Mayor Arth Jhun Aguilar Marasigan, a solid development blueprint is emerging.
With Aksyon Bilis as the overarching call, this blueprint is dedicated to the transformation of the City of Sto. Tomas into a full house of industrial development that provides various employment opportunities to the city’s residents.
The formula for progress, as espoused by Mayor AJAM, is one that combines health and investments. It comes from a full appreciation of the COVID-19 experience for the people of Sto. Tomas and the realization that no genuine progress is possible without a healthy constituency.
RAISING HEALTHY TOMASINOS
Dr. Arnielyn Marasigan-Aguirre, Adviser/Executive Assistant V of the City Health Office and Health Education and Promotion Unit, said Mayor AJAM purposely strengthened the city’s basic health services to ensure that even those in grassroots are provided with much-needed medical attention.
The health services strategy operates from the position that prevention is better than cure, Aguirre said, adding that the need to strengthen education when it comes to health is important so that Tomasinos will be equipped with the knowledge on how to prevent getting sick, rather than spending more money on medicines and medical care.
“When the Health Education and Promotion Unit (HEPU) was institutionalized last November 2022 in the City of Sto Tomas, a lot of projects were delivered to the people of Sto Tomas,” she said.
Aguirre also speaks of the senior citizen-focused “Forever Young Program,” which provides the elderly with flu and pneumonia vaccines they need. “Multivitamins and maintenance medicines are also provided to approximately 16,000 senior citizens through the Alisto Ako program. On nutrition, senior citizens are also given milk programs.”
Future health programs center on improving the size and suitability of the city’s health institutions.
Aguirre further expounded: “More doctors were hired to cater to more patients, especially children. Last May 2023, the New City Health Office II was opened in Sta Clara, through the help of the AnaKalusugan Partylist, to enable people from faraway places to avail of medical services. They also ensure the availability of medicines in the two city health offices. Doctors are available Monday-Friday, and even Saturdays, to ensure expert assistance in attending to the medical needs of the city’s constituents.”
On the occurrence of other infectious diseases such as polio, Aguirre is proud to say that there are no more polio cases in the city. She stressed that the City of Sto. Tomas is the only LGU that still provides the rotavirus vaccine to children since its devolution from the LGUs.
The focus on health by Mayor AJAM ensures that Tomasinos are kept healthy as they make their way towards progressive living in the city.
Mayor AJAM believes that being healthy will enable one to be more functional and productive, thus contributing to nation building and ensuring sustainability of the economic vibrance of a city.
A large portion of the First Philippine Industrial Park is situated in the City of Sto. Tomas.
At the FPIP, there remains available spaces within the property that can be used as development sites. Currently, there is an ongoing construction of a multinational electronic company focused on research and development. The city is eyeing this as an opportunity to generate jobs and income for Tomasinos. There are also other multinational companies in FPIP as well as in the PEZA zones of the city.
Since the time Mayor AJAM assumed office, some six to seven big corporations have invested in Sto Tomas. LGU officials expect more to come because of Mayor AJAM’s forward-looking approach to investments—characterized by the easy way of transaction with the Business Permit and Licensing Office of the LGU.
The list of requirements have been reduced to ensure that even small enterprises of Tomasinos can comply, attracting more businesses to open and start in the city. This also ensures that business permits can be issued faster and more efficiently.
To make the process much easier for the business owners, the LGU puts up a one-stop shop with a lounge so they no longer need to go around processing their applications.
As a way to show the LGU’s gratitude to these business owners, the usherettes and LGU employees are the ones who process their papers for them while they wait in the lounge for their permits to be issued. Snacks and entertainment are provided in the lounge.
Mayor AJAM personally signs their permits and issues it to them with a special token of appreciation. He personally visits investors and barangay business folk to check on them and ask them if there is anything that they want to request from the LGU.
This hands-on treatment from Mayor AJAM maintains the mutually beneficial relationship with investors and business owners.
Among the major investors that have located in the City of Sto.Tomas are the SM City in Sto. Tomas, the S&R, and Mega Prime Foods, Inc.—Maria Luisa Jalandoni