ILOILO City – Once elected into office, congressional frontrunner Julienne “Jam-jam” Baronda vowed to work with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and other agencies to fix the city’s transportation sector so it would be easier to entice investors particularly in the special economic zone she plans to get declared as a long-term solution to unemployment.
“We have to ensure that our transportation system is working. We have a plan ready for that. Our ports have to be rehabilitated and expanded so that raw materials could be easily hauled in and finished products easily shipped out to end-users,” said Baronda.
This was why, she stressed, she made a representation with Transportation secretary Arthur Tugade “to seek his guidance about my idea.”
“Thankfully he saw the wisdom behind my goal. With God’s grace, we will roll out a Transport Management System once we are elected,” said Baronda.
The efficient management of land, sea and air transportation is expected to attract investors as they can move their goods quickly and less costly.
According to Baronda, Iloilo City’s economic potential is yet to be fully maximized given that it has existing flights to regional hubs Singapore and Hong Kong, which are plus points for the city to transform into manufacturing hub.
Baronda, a former city councilor and Senate staff, vowed to improve the economy on the long-term by enticing investors into the city. She plans to have a site declared as a special economic zone where investors can locate their manufacturing or processing industries.
“We should not fully depend on our overseas workers. We should create industries at home so that our economy gets better and families need not be separated anymore,” said Baronda.
She had spoken with businessmen who were into computer software and hardware parts during an international information and communications technology convention in Metro Manila and they thought Iloilo City could become a Silicon Valley of sort given its human capital.
“They told me we have the human resource and they can provide the capital and the technology plus the market. So the idea of Iloilo City becoming a Silicon Valley is not far-fetched. We just need to provide them with the site, incentives, digital infrastructure, their other requirements and then Ilonggos will have work. I guess we have not yet tapped the right people. And that is what I am going to do – pitch Iloilo City to the right persons,” said Baronda.
And an efficient and cost-efficient transport system is a necessity to make the city appealing to foreign and big Filipino investors. Baronda toured Undersecretary Fernando Juan Perez of DOTr recently for him to see the Ortiz Wharf, Iloilo Domestic Port (Fort San Pedro) and the Iloilo International Port in Bo. Obrero.
Perez thinks the Iloilo International Port will graduate from being a key transshipment point in the region to a major shipment hub as it is going to be the gateway to the planned special economic zone.
Perez, undersecretary for maritime, also saw the need to rehabilitate and even expand Fort San Pedro if more cruise ships are expected to arrive in Iloilo City. It can also be a port where ferry services to tourist destinations like Mararison in Antique or Gigantes in Carles, Iloilo can be launched in the future.
Baronda also wants the tourism industry to be maximized by bringing in more cruise ships and by enticing more domestic tourists from other parts of the country.
“We need to rehabilitate and expand Fort San Pedro so that more cruise ships can dock there. We can also look into having ferry trips to Sicogon, Gigantes, or Mararison from here so we can have more tourists, which means job opportunities for us,” she said.
Regarding land transport, Baronda, along with Sen. JV Ejercito and her sister Councilor Lady Julie Grace “Love-Love” Baronda, discussed with the Land Transportation Office (LTO) regional director Roland Ramos and other LTO officials how to better manage the traffic congestion in the city.
They discussed the engagement of drivers and drivers’ associations to educate the drivers to be more disciplined in following traffic laws. They further agreed that an efficient Transport Management System is what Iloilo City needs so that travel time is predictable and the ride is comfortable with everyone also safe.
The Point-to-Point shuttle buses and Bus Rapid System, which are already in place in some parts of Metro Manila, are some of the available solutions to the ever-growing commuter population they want to look into.
Baronda, who is leading in the most reliable Random Access Consultants, Inc. (RACI) survey with 57 percent, is running with a four-point platform of “H.O.P.E.” or programs on health, obra (work), peace and order, and education. She belongs to Team Uswag of Cong. Jerry Treñas who is running for mayor and Vice Mayor Jeffrey Ganzon who is running for reelection./PN