Abigail Binay: Jejomar's daughter also rises
MANILA, Philippines — Mayor Abigail Binay proud that Makati has been named one of world’s most innovative cities.
Abigail Binay is, at once, her father’s daughter and her own person.
As the mayor of the Philippines’ richest city and financial capital, she knows that she has to ensure that Makati retains its position at the top of the local government unit food chain, and remain competitive against other cities wanting a bigger piece of the action from the business community.
But as the leader of a city known for its generous social services’the legacy of her father’s populist style of governance spawned everything from free healthcare to movie tickets for its residents’“Mayora Abby” acknowledges that her success as the local chief executive depends on a delicate balancing act.
“On one hand, you want the smaller side streets cleared so that vehicles and pedestrians can use them, but at the same time, I can’t just order an immediate ban on residents holding wakes for their departed loved ones on the sidewalk, with a tent occupying part of the street,” she said.
The practice was not only tolerated by her father, the former Vice President Jejomar Binay, but was said to be encouraged by City Hall, with the mayor said to be in the habit of visiting the wakes of three deceased constituents every night’a practice that endeared him to the less affluent sections of the sprawling city.
“I have to understand the needs of my constituents while, at the same time, pushing them toward greater discipline,” she said. “Because discipline is what ‘Makatizens’ need for us to remain the best city for its residents and for the businesses located here.”
And style of governance, apart from being noticed by her constituents, is now being recognized overseas, as well.
Indeed, Makati City was cited one of the most innovative cities in the world for its use of technology for disaster preparedness and resiliency at this year’s World Smart Cities Awards during the recently concluded Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain.
In particular, organizers of the annual convention aimed at making cities around the world more livable cited Makati City’s use of mobile technology and applications “so citizens can reach the city’s command center to request for assistance and report crimes, city engineering and waste management issues, among others.”
Other finalist cities’selected from a total of 450 entries worldwide’were Vadadora, India; Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; Bonn, Germany; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Pretoria, South Africa; and the host, Barcelona, Spain which ultimately won the award.
During the event, Binay was also invited to speak as a panelist in a forum highlighting the importance of people mobility in promoting livability in any modern city.
And because Makati’s population of one million residents swells to five million during the daytime, thanks to four million employees and workers who move in and out of the city during the workday, continued improvements in mobility is especially important for the young mayor.
“In 2018, we announced the ground breaking of the Philippines’ first subway”“the Makati City Subway System,” she told the international audience. “It is the country’s biggest locally initiated public private partnership or PPP. It will create 10,000 jobs, ease traffic congestion in a city with a 5 million daytime population and is key to untangle the traffic grid that cripples the whole of Metro Manila. The Makati City Subway System will jumpstart unprecedented mobility in the National Capital Region.”
She added that, in 2017, the city government launched the country’s largest citywide fiber optic loop, free for the use of local residents.
“It signaled the new age of connectivity in local governance, where communication is accessible and available to all barangays covering close to one million residents,” Binay said, adding that this free internet program paved the way for implementation of the Philippines’ first and most comprehensive city app, the Makatizen app, which connects the local government to its people and provides linkages between the city’s key private and public stakeholders.
“This means real time connectivity between the people and the city’s command center. It gives our Makatizens faster access to the police, fire station and the local government,” she said. “Quick access and fast response to crime, crisis and calamity. Other concerns like garbage collection, animal control, flooding and traffic are acted upon, decisively and immediately.”
Whether speaking in a public forum or in a private conversation, Binay’s drive and passion for excellence are evident. What is also evident is her unspoken determination to redeem the family’s legacy after the bruising political war waged against her father ahead of the 2016 presidential elections.
She acknowledged that she is her father’s favorite child and is “the only one who can give it to him straight”, whether it be bad news or inconvenient truths.
“But I’m not doing this for my dad, or for myself,” the younger Binay said firmly. “This is so that we could all have a more livable city. A better city. A city we could be proud of.”
From all indications, it looks like the mayor will achieve this goal.