DAGUPAN occupies a special niche in the Filipino consciousness: It’s the country’s bangus (milkfish) capital. The coastal city’s variety of the Philippines’ favorite milkfish is of such renown that they are sold in stores nationwide with “Dagupan Certified” tags, and are celebrated in the city’s very own annual Bangus Festival.
Last year, the Department of Science and Technology-Information and Communications Technology Office (DoST-ICTO) and the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (ITBAP) named Dagupan to its Next Wave Cities list, recognizing the 70-year old city’s readiness to host outsourcing companies planning to invest in the Philippines.
This year, Mayor Belen Fernandez is literally paving the way for Dagupan’s development, securing approval for her city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP) and Zoning Ordinance. With the CLUP in place, Dagupan is now focused on pursuing plans for its identified growth areas in Lucao-Pantal, Poblacion, Caranglaan-Tebeng and Bonuan. The mayor announced the transfer of the City Hall, in line with the new CLUP. A recent ordinance proposes that the City Hall at present and its adjoining plaza and park, inaugurated in 1925, be declared a cultural heritage site.
To ensure Dagupan’s development, Fernandez is investing in initiatives concerning peace and order, and safety and resiliency. The city has increased its counter-terrorism capabilities. It has also been elevating its roads and investing in mapping software and equipment to better evaluate, mitigate and quickly respond to jarring effects of climate change, particularly flooding. Dagupan is already constructing evacuation centers in anticipation of intense rains.
Dagupan’s ambition to be a premier Philippine city by 2019 is not to be taken lightly. The city has demonstrated an uncanny ability to achieve. When then-acting mayor Fernandez took over the reins as the city’s top executive, Dagupan had a budget deficit of P28.5 million. By the end of 2013, the new administration had engineered a turnaround, wiping out the budget deficit and even entering the new year with a P3.8 million surplus. The following year, on the back of a net income of P69.2 million, Dagupan registered a net surplus of P53.6 million–the highest ever recorded in the city’s history.
Its forward-looking focus is similarly felt in education. The city’s colleges and universities draw the best minds throughout the Ilocos Region, adding an estimated 35 percent to the city’s 180,000 residents on schooldays with students from outside the city. It is also paying special attention to science and technology among the young, collaborating with the DoST and the Science Education Institute on an annual Robotics Fair.
With dedication to its dream for further development, Dagupan’s determined push to be a premier city by 2019 seems to be easily achievable.