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Win some, lose some

When the city of Manila emerged as one of the most livable out of 180 cities in a recently conducted global survey and ranked 148th among the “smartest” cities in the world, Mayor and former president Joseph Estrada was the most elated. The independent survey was conducted by Spain-based University of Navarra’s IESE Business School.

The 2017 Cities in Motion Index (CIMI) survey rated 180 cities in 80 countries based on the following parameters: governance, urban planning, public management, technology, environment, international impact, social cohesion, transportation, human capital and economy. The city of Manila ranked 174th in transportation; 160th in governance; 147th in environment; 145th in urban planning; 140th in social cohesion; 139th in human capital; 131st in economy; and, 103rd in technology.

In the same global survey, the city of Manila fared relatively better in the areas of public management (57th) and international impact (68th). The CIMI, now on its fourth year, enables the strengths and weaknesses of each city to be identified. Four of the top ten livable cities are in the United States. The top ten are as follows: New York (US): London, United Kingdom; Paris, France; Boston (US); San Francisco (US); Washington, D.C.(US); Seoul, South Korea; Tokyo, Japan; Berlin, Germany; and Amsterdam, Netherlands.

While the ranking of Manila maybe obviously far from the top ten livable cities in the world, its inclusion is enough happiness for Mayor Estrada. Incidentally, Mayor Estrada turned more happy to see his son, ex-Sen. Jinggoy Estrada released from detention last Saturday after Sandiganbayan finally granted the latter’s bail petition on his plunder case.

The survey elated so much the 80-year-old Mayor who viewed it as a big challenge for him to do even better on his remaining term of office at City Hall. He already announced plans to seek re-election in 2019 for third and last term as Mayor.

The city government is now able to do development programs apparently already financially sound after being hobbled by the bankrupt coffers Mayor Estrada complained about when he first assumed office at City Hall in 2010. In his state of the city address during Araw ng Maynila last June 24, Mayor Estrada reported the city government has already paid its more than P5 billion debts and can now concentrate on the delivery of basic services and programs to uplift the lives of Manileños.

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“The low rating of Manila in terms of being most livable and smartest cities is attributable to the bankrupt city coffers that we inherited from my predecessor,” Mayor Estrada pointed out.

Mr. Estrada, who won his first and second term as mayor of Manila in 2010 and 2013 elections, respectively, credited his pro-poor programs of governance he dubbed as “from-womb-to-tomb” as having largely improved the quality of living of many low income Manileños. The “womb-to-tomb” program of Manila City Hall covers basic public services from the delivery of babies at the six city-run hospitals, check-up and medication of sick patients, to burial and/or cremation at the crematorium owned by the city government at the Manila North Cemetery – all for free to certified Manila residents.

“From birth to death, Manileños are free from expenses,” Mayor Estrada quipped.

“I am trying my very best to bring back the old glory of Manila as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ and as the prime capital city,” Mayor Estrada vowed.

The Mayor refers to “Perla del Mar de Oriente” or Pearl of the Orient Sea which was first used in 1751 as a sobriquet by the Spanish Jesuit Missionary Padre Juan J. Delgado to describe Manila’s trade history even before the Manila-Acapulco galleon era. But it was our country’s national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal who used this phrase in the first paragraph of his classic “My Last Farewell.” Rizal though referred not to Manila but specifically alluded to the Philippines as the “Pearl of the Orient Seas.”

Nonetheless, Rizal’s take on it doesn’t really matter as far as Mayor Estrada is concerned. The Mayor is a self-proclaimed fan of our country’s Katipunan revolutionary hero, Andres Bonifacio.

The Mayor’s elation to this survey ranking though was short-lived. A few days later, another international opinion polls came out that included the city of Manila as among the top ten “most stressful” cities in the world. The United Kingdom-based group Zipjet tagged Manila released the results of its 2017 Global Least and Most Stressful Cities Ranking.

According to this global survey, the top ten most stressful cities are, in this order: Baghdad (Iraq); Kabul (Afghanistan); Lagos (Nigeria); Dakar (Senegal); Cairo (Egypt); Tehran (Iran); Dhaka (Bangladesh); Karachi (Pakistan); New Delhi (India); and Manila (Philippines).

On the other hand, Germany dominated the top ten least stressful cities with four cities, three of which placed in the top 5. The top ten least stressful cities are, in this order: Stuttgart, (Germany); Luxembourg City (Luxembourg); Hannover (Germany); Bern (Switzerland); Munich (Germany); Bordeaux (France); Edinburgh (UK); Sydney (Australia); Hamburg (Germany); and Graz (Austria).

“Mental health problems are on the rise worldwide, with stress being a trigger and contributing factor towards this increase. We hope that by pinpointing how the least stressful cities are managing this issue, those cities struggling with a stressed out population can overcome it,” Zipjet managing director Florian Färber explained.

The study of Zipjet reportedly analyzed 500 locations worldwide based on these factors: pollution, traffic levels, public transport, percentage of green spaces, financial status of citizens including debt levels, physical and mental health, and the hours of sunlight the city gets per year.

Mayor Estrada is naturally not flattered by the survey results and questioned its credibility, taking note that Zipjet is a British company registered as a dry-cleaning and laundry service based in London. “It sounds like a fake news. I don't know that group (Zipjet) which reportedly conducted the study. It seems like there is a concerted effort to discredit Manila as the country’s capital city,” the Mayor fumed.

You can’t win them all, Mayor. Just stay focused to turn to reality your “Pearl of the Orient Sea” vision for the country’s premier city as legacy in your last hurrah at City Hall.

Opinion surveys are like just any other popularity contests. Some times you win, some other times you lose.

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