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Metro

YEARENDER: Crimes pull down economic growth in Camanava

Ramil Bajo, Rey Galupo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The economic growth of the cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela (Camanava) had been clearly visible in 2014.

According to local officials, business was brisk, infrastructure and road improvements were aplenty, and local and foreign investors are trying to tap the market.

Crimes, drugs

Despite the economic progress of the four cities in 2014, the rising crime rate and the proliferation of illegal drugs remain a problem.

Caloocan started 2014 with a shooting in BMBA Compound involving a certain “Ampatuan” and his brother, who shot at revelers on the street. Two died and at least 10 people were wounded.

Ampatuan, an alleged drug pusher, was captured a month later in Bulacan, while his brother remains at large.  

On that same night, another shooting occurred in Bagong Barrio, reportedly between two warring gangs fighting for supremacy in the area. 

Since then, at least seven killings involving the Sawako and Demon gangs have been reported.  

Just a few days before Christmas last year, a 28-year-old alleged drug lord was captured at a fastfood restaurant in Monumento, reportedly carrying 25 grams of shabu with a street value of P295,000.

Oliver de Guzman was allegedly the godfather of the Demon gang and is wanted for several crimes, including the killing of a Quezon City policeman, city police chief Senior Superintendent Bartolome Bustamante said. 

Bustamante said he planned several raids against certain criminals in Bagong Barrio and BMBA Compound but the criminals escaped. He said he suspects some police officers may have tipped off the criminals.

Spate of killings

What shook Caloocan City was the assassination of at least six barangay councilmen, two chairmen, and a traffic and management official in a span of seven months.

Mayor Oscar Malapitan offered rewards for the capture of the killers but no arrest has been made despite the publication of pictures of the alleged suspects.

A source hinted that the killings were politically motivated. 

Malapitan refused to comment on the “political angle” of the murders, but said he believes that the intelligence reports of the police were reliable.

Valenzuela made headlines by cracking down on car theft syndicates, while Caloocan, Malabon, and Navotas had their lion’s share of victories against criminals.

The bodies of murder victims, mostly persons who had links to the illegal drug trade, were found in Caloocan, Malabon, and Navotas, and there were reports that some policemen were behind the killings. 

There were also cases of ambushes and robberies that the Northern Police District (NPD) and the four city police chiefs tried to solve, some successfully. 

In less than two years, the NPD had three directors.

Caloocan is now on its third police chief, while Malabon and Navotas had changed their chiefs of police twice, and only Valenzuela remained with its original police chief.

Despite these crimes, the city governments continued to make an effort to improve their areas of jurisdiction.

Free university in Caloocan

The University of Caloocan had been improved, with the construction of two additional buildings, one each in Bukid area and in District 2. 

The 16,000 students enrolled in the university would not have to pay a single centavo starting the next academic year as the local government will shoulder their fees.

The crime-prone stretch of Rizal Avenue up to the Monumento area, meanwhile, had a facelift while plans to improve the Bonifacio Monument are in the works.  

For the first time, SM will have a mall in the Sangandaan area and several investors have expressed their intentions to put up their businesses in the city.

“Residents of Caloocan are spending their money in nearby cities. Now they don’t have to cross the border because they will have their own shopping mall,” Malapitan said. 

The city also improved its medical facilities and opened two more hospitals in Bukid.

The city government also forged a memorandum of agreement with the city of Malabon to turn the formerly disputed land within their boundaries into a commercial hub like The Fort in Taguig City or the Cubao business center in Quezon City. 

“The construction of the commercial center would mean extra income in terms of taxes and further employment for residents of the two cities,” Malapitan said. 

The 80-hectare land, which straddles the boundaries of Barangay Libis in Caloocan and Barangay Potrero in Malabon, had been the bone of contention since 2001 following the passage of Republic 9019, which converted Malabon into a city and the declaration of the disputed barangays as part of its territory. 

Malabon focuses on food tourism

Malabon had launched projects to propel food businesses in the city.

Among these projects is the “Tricycle Tours” program, which accredited 25 tricycles as “tour guides” to bring local and foreign visitors to the city’s historical sites and choice food destinations.   

“We have a 400-year-old church, historical heritage houses of well-known political personalities and artists, and good food destinations, which is a big part of Philippine history. We have a lot to offer to backpackers and those beach people who come to the country,” Chef Melissa Sison-Oreta, wife of the city mayor, said. 

Known for good food and local delicacies, Malabon has been aiming to get the tag as the country’s top food destination, said Mayor Antolin Oreta III, son of businessman Antolin Oreta Jr. and former senator Tessie Oreta. 

In 2014, the local government was also well on its mark in its P1-billion income target and there are negotiations for the opening of several shopping malls.

Navotas opens first hospital

Navotas City opened its first hospital, which has a 50-bed capacity, in November last year.

“Some of our constituents are seeking medical assistance from our neighboring cities, particularly Malabon and Caloocan. Now, they can be proud that their city has its own hospital,” said Mayor John Rey Tiangco.

Tiangco is the brother of United Nationalist Alliance’s interim president and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco.

The mayor noted that the thrust of his administration is to lure foreign and local investors to generate jobs and to improve the city’s tax collection by eradicating red tape.

Valenzuela cuts red tape

Meanwhile, Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian – former city representative and brother of former three-term mayor and now Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian – takes pride in the fact that transactions in the city hall are transparent and bereft of allegations of corruption through the city’s automated permits system. 

In eight months, the city finished its simultaneous construction of 100 new classrooms as well as the Valenzuela City School of Mathematics and Science, which is envisioned to be the country’s most tech-savvy mathematics and science high school.

BAGONG BARRIO

CALOOCAN

CENTER

CITY

MALABON

NAVOTAS

VALENZUELA

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