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Former Batangas Rep. Mandanas is governor-elect

The Philippine Star

BATANGAS CITY, Philippines (The Filipino Connection) — A former governor returns to the provincial capitol here after topping the five-man race for Batangas province’s top post.

Investment banker Hermilando Mandanas won the gubernatorial race as expected given an over-65,000 vote lead over second placer and outgoing Rep. Mark Llandro Mendoza.

Mandanas will succeed Vilma Santos-Recto, who has been elected to represent the 6th District in Congress. Santos-Recto, who has been governor from 2007, ran on a campaign called HEARTS: health, education, environment, economy and employment, agriculture, roads, tourism and safety and security.

Meanwhile, former Calaca Mayor Sofronio Ona, Jr. topped the vice governor race given a commanding over-136,000 vote lead over Amado Carlos Bolilia. Ona will replace Jose Antonio Leviste II, who lost to Mandanas and placed third in the gubernatorial race.

Leviste said he is willing to help Mandanas in the best way he can. He also said he will work with Ona for a smooth transition of administration of the provincial board.

Shortly after he was proclaimed governor-elect, Mandanas also reached out and congratulated Ona on his victory.

Mandanas is expected to advance an economic agenda that includes completing the Batangas Port Development Project and a provincial food terminal, and reviving a provincial livelihood and training center.

During his previous nine-year stint at the provincial capitol, Mandanas offered scholarships to qualified Batangueno students in colleges and universities in the province.

In 2004, the Batangas Port Livelihood Center was established as a means to offer livelihood programs for informal settlers in Barangay Sta. Clara, Batangas City. These settlers were displaced as a result of the establishment of the Batangas Port in 2003.

The project, however, was widely criticized and regarded as a white elephant, whose function even the Santos-Recto administration failed to successfully tap. The project was financed by a P237.6-million loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines. The Commission on Audit said the center has incurred P260.5 million in losses since 2004, representing the principal and the interest expenses paid to Land Bank.

“Operation did not materialize and there has been no other activity in the center to attain its objective of providing livelihood to informal settlers of Barangay Sta. Clara other than the use of the ground floor of the building as pay parking area for vehicles of travelers going to Mindoro Province,” COA said in a 2012 report.

Shops at the nearby vendors' plaza also closed due to a lack of customers, especially after Batangas port authorities decided to move the bus terminal inside for better security. Garbage dumps are also everywhere.

In the proclamation rites at the provincial Commission on Elections office here, Santos-Recto said she has nothing to request of Mandanas. He knows what to do as governor, Santos-Recto said.

“If there is -- maybe, if I may have left an effective program like the HEARTS program [behind], I just hope he continues them,” Santos-Recto said.

Mandanas said he will prioritize the scholarship programs and the recognition of the service given by barangay workers by increasing their allowances and giving them pensions.

He says this though: “First and foremost we have to fix our budget. Double the budget of our province. What’s due to the local government should be due to them so that we will be able to help them.”

Mandanas, 72, once chaired the House Ways and Means Committee and was once with President Aquino’s Liberal Party.

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