Iloilo City's phenomenal economic growth

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit Avila - The Freeman

ILOILO CITY - As we wrote yesterday, last Saturday we motored to Bacolod City because of the ease of travel and the crossing along Tañon Strait. There was a time when the trip from Toledo Port to San Carlos Port would take two-and-a half hours. But with the new FastCat roll-on/roll-off vessel, which could carry 30 cars, travel has become a breeze, more so that the ro/ro vessel takes only an hour and a half to cross the Tañon Strait.

Last Sunday, the group decided to leave our cars in the Port of Bacolod and boarded the OceanJet fast ferry. Immediately, you will notice that the passenger terminal in Bacolod has yet to be improved by the port authorities. Despite the influx of passengers going to and from Bacolod City and Iloilo City, Port officials have a passenger terminal that seems to have gotten stuck in the 1970s! Reaching the Port of Iloilo, you will instantly see that huge difference between the passenger terminal in Bacolod and Iloilo. The Iloilo passenger terminal is spanking clean with clean toilets and air-conditioning that works!

We left the Port of Iloilo for the 55-kilometer road trip to San Joaquin, where the Garin Farms are located. The trip took us two hours because so many roads were also being repaired by the DPWH. A lot of bridges were being fixed and roads widened. It just makes you think why aren't our DPWH officials widening the roads in the Province of Cebu? Even the 40-kilometer road to Salvador Benedicto, which is Bacolod's version of our Transcentral Highway, is shamefully wide!

When we reached the Garin Farms we were surprised to see a huge crowd of local tourists. This place is not only a place for spiritual recollection; it is also a real working farm with poultry to boot. Then it has a man-made lake for children to use and a steep stairway climb to a white cross perched on top of a mountain. Since we couldn't stay long, despite my senior discount, I opted not to go in and use my drone to take videos and photographs of the sites inside the farm. A place similar to this in Cebu is our Simala Shrine where pilgrims and tourist flock by the thousands per day.

We drove back to Iloilo City where former Cebu City councilor Richard "Ritchie" Osmeña, who is the Land Transportation Office regional director for Region 8, was waiting for us in Tatoy's Manokan and Seafoods, one of Iloilo's major food destinations. Their food quality has remained just the same the last time I was there. It was good to have met Ritchie Osmeña and talk about the old times and how things were with him in Iloilo.

After a hefty meal with the group, Ritchie toured us to see the recent and new developments happening in Iloilo City. Just like what we did to the old Lahug Airport runway which we leased out to IT Park, Iloilo officials also did the same, but better. They built new buildings resembling the buildings inside the Bonifacio Global City.

We also saw a glimpse of the first full-scale mall of P2.2-billion Megaworld Corporation. Above all, Iloilo officials prepared the city with wide roads and a beautiful River Boardwalk. I'm referring to Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog who is in hiding abroad since he was tagged as a drug protector by Pres. Rodrigo "Digong" Duterte. But we give credit where credit is due and if Iloilo City has regained its title as "Queen City of the South" it is because their city officials worked hard to regain their crown.

Meanwhile, our local officials in Cebu are quarreling with each other at a time when there is growth, not just in Cebu, but in Bacolod, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao City. Mayor Tomas Osmeña has been dubbed as an "anti-business" mayor because of his direct quarrels with the SM Group. By now, Cebu should already have our version of ARENA or the SMX, which SM was slated to build. But instead these worthy projects were shelved until there is a better business atmosphere. If our elected officials cannot get their act together soon other cities will overtake Cebu and we would have to blame our quarreling officials.


For email responses to this article, write to [email protected]. His columns can be accessed through www.philstar.com.

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