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Essay by Jejomar C Binay
Mayor of the City of Makati, Philippines

The restoration of democracy in the Philippines through EDSA in 1986 gave local government the opportunity of serving at the frontlines of the new democratic order. (EDSA stands for Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, the main thoroughfare in Metro Manila. It was there where the main demonstrations against the Marcos regime took place.) To make EDSA a reality in the lives of ordinary people, I believe that government – or more specifically local government – should be made to really work for the people. This entails the evolution of local government from being a mere dispenser of basic services to something that represents an “engine for economic growth".

The City of Makati is one of 13 cities and four municipalities that make up the National Capital Region (NCR) of the country, more commonly referred to as Metro Manila. It has a total land area of, which represents only 4.3 per cent of the total area of Metro Manila. With a population of 471,379, based upon the last official census in 2000, Makati ranks ninth in population among the cities and municipalities of Metro Manila.

What Makati lacks in land area and population size, it makes up for in prominence. It is the undisputed financial and commercial centre of the Philippines. As one of the cradles of the revolt against Spanish colonial rule, and as the nucleus of the protest movement against the Marcos dictatorship ignited by the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983, it has played an important role in shaping Philippine business and politics.

Before the EDSA revolution, the people, especially the residents, saw Makati as a miniscule version of Philippine society at that time – a society characterised by a gaping divide between rich and poor, an inept and aimless local bureaucracy, with leaders looking after their own interests, together with an absence of basic public services in most areas.

For most residents of that time, the Makati Central Business District (CBD) and the adjacent six exclusive villages could have been on an entirely different map, given the glaring disparities in the social, economic and physical landscapes of those “enclaves for the rich and powerful” and those of the outlying barangays.

With democracy restored by the 1986 EDSA Revolution, the opportunity for local governments to serve at the frontlines of our democratic order presented itself. For us in Makati, it was evident that we would not be able to really remove the feeling of resentment - and with it social and political unrest - as long as people felt they were not getting a fair share of economic growth.

The majority of the people of Makati deserve an equal chance to receive quality education, health, and employment opportunities. And it is the role of the local government to make sure that the revenues generated from the business of corporations and property owners are used for the benefit of the people.

A mayor should ideally be the mayor for all residents, meaning the rich, the middle class and the poor. But when it comes to allocating local government resources, he must do so on the basis of need, guided by his social obligation to his constituents. Government must place priority on addressing the concerns of the economically disadvantaged. Makati’s rich and the middle classes can look after themselves. It is the poor who depend on government, and they expect government to see to their well-being.

But the line should be drawn between looking after the people’s welfare and encouraging dependence. Government must not forget to impart to its citizens a sense of social responsibility. Citizens should reciprocate government efforts to meet their needs, provide social services, stimulate growth, and promote economic opportunities with a willingness to become productive members of society, observing and respecting the law, and giving something back to the community. The city government of Makati has, to a large degree, succeeded in correcting the social, economic and physical discrepancies that prevailed before 1986.

Makati became a city on 2 January 1995 after Congress enacted Republic Act No. 7854. Cityhood was a fitting tribute to the partnership of the communities, the private sector, and local government, all working together to make Makati a vital and vibrant city. Makati is known today for the quality of life enjoyed by its people, regardless of economic class. Our public school students stand on equal footing with students from Makati’s private schools in terms of academic excellence. Our schools, health centres, and other community infrastructures, are of high quality. Good roads are not only found within the villages but in all our barangays. Despite the scarcity of public land, we have managed to build houses for our lower-income residents, and construct parks for the enjoyment of the larger community. And we are among the few local governments where residents clean their streets voluntarily and practice garbage segregation.

Our health programs have resulted in Makati becoming the healthiest local government unit in the Philippines, with the lowest malnutrition rate of 1.53 per cent compared with an average of 5.49 per cent in Metro Manila. Makati also enjoys a literacy rate of 99.3 per cent, just a few points shy of our goal of 99.9 per cent, owing to our heavy investments in modernising our public school system.

We also continue to look out for the welfare and well-being of our senior citizens, as our humble way of recognising their invaluable contributions to our city during the prime of their lives. Our Seniorito and Seniorita citizens continue to enjoy free movies in Makati’s cinemas, free field trips and excursions to interesting sites in various parts of the country, and free cakes on their birthdays and golden wedding anniversaries. They also receive an annual cash gift of P2,000, and under our BLU Card program, the family of a senior citizen who is a BLU card holder is given P3,000 as financial aid upon his or her death. All these social investments have made a tangible impact on the quality of life of our people.

In a 2002 study conducted by the Policy Center of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), Makati ranked second only to Japan, outranking Malaysia, China and Indonesia in the Human Development Index (HDI). The criteria for HDI rankings – a tool developed by the United Nations – include life expectancy, adult literacy, school enrolment, educational attainment, and per capita GNP.

Makati’s public infrastructures, once seen as inferior to privately-owned structures in design and structural quality, have undergone major changes over the past 20 years. The new 22-storey Makati City Hall, for instance, would fit neatly among the rows of corporate towers in the CBD. Makati also takes pride in having the best police and fire stations in the country. To ensure peace and order throughout the city, we have invested heavily in beefing up the capability of our protective sector.

Apart from providing our peacekeeping forces with modern vehicles and equipment, generous monthly allowances, and free access to English proficiency classes at the University of Makati and personality development training at John Robert Powers, the city government has built the new, state-of-the-art Makati Central Police Station at the CBD to ensure faster response to emergencies.

For two consecutive years (2003-2004), the Makati City Peace and Order Council has been judged the country’s best in the Highly Urbanized Category by the National Police Commission. It has been elevated to the “Hall of Fame” twice in the NCR after beating other localities from 1995 to 1997, and from 2002 to 2004.

The Makati City Disaster Coordinating Council has been judged the Philippines’ best Local Disaster Coordinating Council (highly urbanized category) for 2006. It obtained the highest score in four phases of disaster management, namely: mitigation, preparedness, response and rehabilitation.

At City Hall, the Makati C3 EARS (Command, Control & Communication Emergency Alert and Response System) was recently launched. It is Makati’s integrated command, control and communications centre capable of answering emergency calls from its community and dispatching, at the push of a button, emergency response teams from the Makati Police, Department of Public Safety, Fire Department and Makati Rescue.

Meanwhile, our aim of fully computerising the government and how it conducts its business is fast becoming realised. At present, Makati is the undisputed leader in e-governance in the country, having been the only Local Government Unit recipient of the 2002 Philippine e-Government Award conferred by the Philippine Internet Commerce Society. The city’s website,, is the only local government website awarded by Graphic Expo. It has reached over 5,000 hits per day, offering on-line services, such as downloadable forms for Business Permit, Individual Mayor’s Permit, Locational Clearance and on-line applications for Senior Citizens cards.

Makati is also the first local government to harness technology to make tax payments less burdensome for taxpayers. After a successful pilot test run, the city’s electronic tax payment scheme for real property taxpayers is now operational in 13 barangays. Computers in these barangays are linked to the City Hall’s Treasury Department and have reduced the process of paying taxes to two to three minutes.

All these accomplishments notwithstanding, the continuing challenge is for us to secure Makati’s position as the financial and commercial capital of the country in the face of constant change. In fact, Makati is in the midst of another shift in its economy. Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) has become the buzzword for new investments, and Makati is reeling in the investors with its built-in advantages. From 24-hour mobile canteens providing affordable hot meals for thousands of BPO employees to a move to have the city declared a Special Economic Zone - and with it a host of incentives for new locators - Makati is making sure that the city becomes the location of choice for BPO investors.

Makati is also the top choice of IT locators because it has Information and Computer Technology (ICT)-ready buildings that allow them to plug in and immediately start operations. These buildings all have double-fed electricity and managed power that ensure continuous operations, with most having their own additional backup power.

Over the course of 20 years we have built the foundations for a modern, progressive urban centre. With rapid globalisation comes the need to position Makati in a way that will optimise its strengths and potential in relation to other cities in the Asian region. Makati needs to look beyond its current CBD and provide alternatives that are more attuned to the direction and needs of global business in the new millennium.

Guided by our new vision, the city government of Makati has embarked on a major revitalisation plan to strengthen the city’s reputation as a hub of local finance and as a trendsetter in public services, spurring greater economic growth and positioning Makati in the global market as a major financial and tourist destination. The key to the realisation of the Masterplan for a 21st Century Makati (Makati 21) is the city’s financial stability, which has been fortified by its unimpeded income growth recorded over the past 20 years.

Makati 21, anchored on the pillars of jobs, shelter, and pride of place, goes beyond a mere facelift for the city. It involves strategies for Makati’s physical development, environmental management, economic and social development, financial stability, and building institutional linkages. The plan will help enhance services for the city’s resident and transient population, provide economic opportunities, and help Makati build stronger ties with international institutions and key cities in Asia and the rest of the world. Thus we have adopted six strategies in pursuing Makati 21: economic development, social development, physical development, environmental development, financial and institutional development.

The economic development strategy will entail the identification of potentials and internal and external influences that impact on the city in terms of its economic competitiveness; determination of economic options for Makati; and formulation of specific programs for enhancing city productivity and the revitalisation of Makati’s economy. This approach includes strategies and programs for regenerating neighbourhoods, barangays or clusters of barangays/districts. The economic development strategy focuses on providing Makati with a competitive edge over other cities in the Asian region and presenting wider options for the global market beyond that which is currently provided in the CBD.

In the area of social development, the city government is focusing on a strategy for providing increased opportunities, especially to disadvantaged sectors. This will include the improvement of their competitiveness in the labour market; enhancement of access to productive activities; widening of social development programs and improvement of the quality of life at the community level.

The physical development strategy focuses on creating a citywide physical development program which will address the issues of emerging obsolescence in certain areas, and providing an infrastructure base for a revitalised city in the new millennium. We are currently drafting a new land use and zoning structure that will promote more livable communities based upon pedestrian-oriented social interaction. It will also guide the creation and maintenance of attractive, meaningful and stimulating urban images, creating distinctive hallmark features of Makati.

In the area of environmental management, the city will provide a framework for enhancing and maintaining Makati’s environment, including programs for improving air and surface water quality, waste water management and solid waste management.

The Makati experience has shown that good governance and social justice are intertwined principles. We cannot have social justice without good governance, and governance cannot be described as good, unless it addresses the roots of inequality based upon economic class differences. What we have done in Makati after the 1986 EDSA Revolution is to address these differences, by fine-tuning, and where necessary, by overhauling the machinery of government.

Makati has managed to set a standard in the delivery of essential services for its business community and for its residents. We have only started; we have planted our seeds, and it is starting to grow. The future generation of Makati residents will be the ones reaping the fruits of our toil.

By then, I would wish to be remembered as the mayor who brought back a sense of pride to the people of Makati, the one who gave them back their dignity, gave them a government that serves them well, and gave them a secure future.

Jejomar Binay, Mayor of Makati City

Jejomar Binay, Mayor of Makati City

The then Filipino President Corazon Aquino appointed Jejomar Cabauatan Binay officer-in-charge of the then Municipality of Makati on 27 February 1986. He was the first local official to be appointed after the 1986 EDSA Revolution ended the Marcos dictatorship. He has been re-elected several times by his constituents, and continues to introduce innovations in local government in the Philippines.

Jojo Binay was born on 11 November 1942. He was orphaned at an early age and had to take on odd jobs to support his schooling. Despite financial constraints, he gained a BSc in political science and was later awarded a bachelor’s degree in law at the University of the Philippines (UP). 

He passed his bar exams in 1960, but chose instead to teach and to provide free legal assistance to the poor. For his political convictions, Mr Binay was jailed for several months by the martial law regime of the time. After his release, he continued his work both as a human rights lawyer and as an active participant in the pro-democracy movement. More