Binay: We’ll spread Makati’s success to other cities

United Opposition vice presidential candidate and Makati Mayor Jojo Binay said the success of the city as the premier business and financial hub in the Philippines could be replicated in other parts of the country.

“Magagawa po iyan basta may political will. Nagawa na ng Makati, magagawa po iyan sa buong bansa,” Binay told a radio interview in Cebu.

When Binay was appointed officer-in-charge of Makati in February 1986 after the EDSA People Power 1, the local government was saddled with P200-million debt. By the end of that year, however, Makati posted P30 billion in savings, the first in the local government’s history, and purged 3,000 ghost employees, which translated to savings of P2.4 million every month, under Binay’s leadership.

Political will, financial disciple, reforms to improve tax collection efficiency and investment in social services are beginning to pay off, Binay said.

Now, the country’s financial center is home to a 22-storey world-class city hall and host to 40 percent of top 1,000 multinational and local corporations, 54 embassies and consulates, and big international organizations.

Literacy rate in Makati is 99.3 percent, one of the highest in the Philippines, owing it to the government’s free education program from elementary to college level.

The city government’s Makati Health Program, popularly known as the Yellow Card, is recognized as one of the best practices in the world. It ranks among the areas with the lowest mortality and malnutrition rate in the country.

Binay said last year the city earmarked P1 billion for its health program and is close to the level of what he called universal medical insurance. “Eighty-five percent of our people are covered by medical insurance. Hospital is a basic service,” he explained.

For senior citizens, Binay said, Makati City set aside some P140 million in 2009 for financial assistance and free hospitalization, as way of “pampering our senior citizens.”

Should he win the vice presidential race, Binay said he would ask the next president to give him the local government post, citing his experience as local chief executive for 23 years.

“I have been saying more power to the local government. If we have a progressive local government… you’re going to reap a progressive country, and that’s true in Europe and in the United States,” he said.

He dismissed observations that Makati was successful because it was already the financial capital of the country. “Hindi po nagawa ng Makati ‘yan dahil mayaman ang Makati. Magagawa rin ‘yan given the opportunity and financial assistance. Magagawa ‘yan kung walang graft and corruption at higit sa lahat if there is political will.”