ONCE a sleepy town in the province of Cavite — the former San Francisco de Malabon renamed after the de facto Vice President General Mariano Trias under the first republic with General Emilio Aguinaldo as President — this place of vast wilderness in the 1800s is now a burgeoning urban center.
Since its conversion from a municipality to a city in 2015, development has been fast-tracked and GenTri (its popular name among residents and the rest of the populace across the archipelago) is considered the new frontier of growth and development in the Calabarzon area.
"We became self-sufficient even when GenTri was still a municipality. In fact, besides area and population, one consideration to become a city is its revenue. Not surprising that development came much easier and faster because the budget from the national government was much bigger. Ang laki pala and that encouraged us to work harder," Mayor Antonio "Ony" Ferrer said.
On August 19, 2015, then President Benigno "PNoy" Aquino 3rd signed Republic Act No. 10675 which converted the municipality into a component city of Cavite. Majority of residents voted yes to cityhood through a plebiscite, thereby making the bill into full effectivity. GenTri became the seventh city of the province and the Philippines' 145th.
Mayor Antonio Ferrer
Incumbent Mayor Antonio "Ony" Ferrer saw the growth of GenTri since he was a child.
Although he lived in Caloocan, he often visited his grandparents who resided in the town.
It was his brother Luis "Jon-Jon" Ferrer 4th though who always lived in GenTri.
From his work at Cavite Export Processing Zone (CEPZ), he ran for Congress and won.
His brother became mayor and instituted many reforms. Both worked hard for the cityhood of GenTri.
When Jon-Jon's three-term as mayor was to end, they changed positions and now, Ony is going to start as GenTri's representative on July 1, and the younger brother will take the reins of the city once again as mayor.
"I know Jon will continue the projects I've started. What I'd like to see is the fruition of my labor to establish GenTri City College where the old municipal building is located.
Wala kasing ibang pwedeng gawin sa location at sa building kundi school," he related.
The city is home to Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU)-Cavite. Cavite State University (CvSU) also has its campus there. AMA Computer University opened in 2019 inside the Ara Vista Village. There are also several public and private elementary and high schools operating in the city.
Blessing from unused IRA
By stringent measures, Ferrer's first order upon assuming mayorship in 2013 was to streamline the bureaucracy. A lot of the affected personnel and their families were his supporters during the election. He earned backlash and was the subject of complaints especially of rumormongers — yes, a lot of Marites already existed that time.
"But I had to do it. The municipality was hard on budget, there were also many payables and upon checking the figures, much can be saved from the payroll of such employees. However, I reached out to them and assisted them in whatever way we can," he said.
In the end, those people may have understood the new chief executive otherwise he would have not been reelected twice until his last term.
Since GenTri received a much bigger Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) — share of local government units (LGUs) from the national government, whose allotment is largely based on their type of government, land area and population — Ferrer saw the need to keep some savings from it.
Having worked at CEPZ for many years, he knew how to spend money wisely and one of the components of wise expenditure is savings. However, the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) and the Commission on Audit (COA) called his attention.
"Sabi nila kailangan daw 100 percent utilized dahil yun ang nasa approved budget. I reasoned out that even if the funds are not fully utilized as long as the projects are fully implemented [then] we have the option to keep some for exigencies, as we don't know what may happen tomorrow."
Then Covid-19 struck in 2020.
"It was really a blessing in disguise because we had funds for ayuda. Naubos na ang budget ng ibang LGU, kami nagbibigay pa rin kami. Somehow BLGF and COA agreed with me as they saw the unexpected emergence of a pandemic," he said.
Waste management system
One perennial problem of any LGU is its waste. No one in Cavite would want his town or city to become a dumpsite. So the wastes are picked up then brought to neighboring Laguna for a fee – exorbitant fees.
"This is really a problem. Ang mahal ng service fee kaya I've been searching for a solution how we can take care of our own garbage. Lahat naman ng LGU ganito ang problema. Marami rin kaming mayor na elected as congressman this 2022 so kami ang magiging boses sa Kongreso about this perennial problem," he said.