Bets for Mandaue mayor share visions of a smart city

·9 min read

IN THE race for Mandaue City’s top post, former councilor Nilo “Olin” Seno seeks an upset victory over reelectionist and four-time Mayor Jonas Cortes.

Name: Jonas Cortes

Age: 56

Highest educational attainment: Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Major in Animal Science, Visayas State University

Previous work experience:


City Councilor 2002-2007

City Mayor 2007-2016

Congressman (6th District, Cebu) 2016-2019

Mandaue City mayor 2019-present

What are the three most urgent problems in Mandaue City that you plan to address if reelected?

PANDEMIC RECOVERY. We need to level up on our actions on health issues and we want to empower more our barangay health centers. One of our goals is to equip our medical facilities, our city hospital, barangay health centers, and provide ambulances and other needed equipment.

ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION. Mandaue collects more than 100 tons of garbage a day. Mandaue is the first highly urbanized city in Metro Cebu that segregates recyclables and turns them into alternative fuel. We also have identified protected areas like the mangroves because these help to give protection especially during storm surges and also serve as breeding grounds for fish. We’ve also taught the barangays to turn biodegradable waste into organic fertilizers.

TRAFFIC. You cannot go to Cebu from the airport without passing through Mandaue. Those from the north going to Cebu City have to pass through Mandaue. So the volume of traffic in Mandaue is tremendous. That’s why we looked for a way to modernize the jeepneys, these buses. We need to have a system in coordination with other local government units to monitor the number of buses that pass. It’s my dream to have more road access for the growing population. Ongoing with DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) national is (our discussion) for the coastal highway to help decongest traffic in Mandaue.

For the main thoroughfares, we want color coding for buses and jeepneys within the city. The riding public will be guided, especially those not from Mandaue that if we say green from Banilad to Cabancalan it will turn here at Centro in the city core, and blue would go to Paknaan.

We have also been setting up signs bearing street names (so that) non-Mandaue residents will not keep going around in circles to find their way, creating traffic. We also give traffic updates through outdoor TV monitors that give guidance.

How do you see Mandaue City 10 years from now?

A smart resilient city. Now we are adopting modernization through knowledge management. We have collected data through the MISO (Mandaue City Management Information System Office). Our marching order for the department heads and MISO is to gather, analyze, store information then disseminate. With this process flow, information will be in one place.

We have a command center, the first ever in Metro Cebu. This controls our traffic lights. We use fiber optics. We were first in our partnership with the Department of Information and Communications Technology on our electronic business licensing office. The process flow of our business application, you can do it online. We simplified and reduced the steps from 19 to three.

What prompted you to seek reelection?

My dreams for this great city. We’ve started some programs, one of which is our government center. The capacity of our City Hall maybe was okay in the 1990s, but now we cannot effectively serve the people of Mandaue with this situation with other offices at the back, the others above Jollibee, our CSWS (City Social Welfare Services) there in the hospital, engineering separate. We wanted to have a one-stop government center so if you want to transact business with the City, you go to only one place.

A lot of projects are in the pipeline. The coastal highway is part of the package of our fourth bridge. This will be a Japan International Cooperation Agency-funded project. Phase 1 is the coastal road, fourth bridge that will connect to Lapu-Lapu. Those from the north will no longer need to pass through the Marcelo Fernan (bridge) because there will already be another bridge there. And the coastal highway will be a place where people can relax. There’s a bike lane, jogging lane. One can sit by the shoreline. This will be an added attraction for Mandaue.

We had the groundbreaking for our sports complex, and in six months or so, Phase 1 will be completed. It’s so unfortunate that Mandaue has no sports facility. There will be a tennis court, basketball court, oval, soccer field and Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Another priority is to put up Bantay Mandaue resilient centers. We will cluster the barangays into five: Kabukiran, Butuanon, Kadagatan, Centro and Mahiga. We plan to build a fire station for every cluster. This will shorten the response time during emergencies.

What is your edge over your opponent?

My experience as councilor, mayor and congressman. From my father, I learned to listen. I know the duty of a leader is not to produce more followers but to produce more leaders. My humility. I never asked for power. Power is given to those who are willing to go down and pick it up. Andam ka mokuyog, moduyog sa katawhan.

What is your leadership style?

A consultative, participatory type of governance. I would like to cite one project. In the past, for our socialized housing, we’d give the lots and then it failed because there was no participation. But when we changed our program, wherein they have sweat equity, that project beneficiaries help to build the homes, the people’s mindset changed. Through that system, there are no more beneficiaries who sold their homes and left.

Who is your model in leadership?

My father (Demetrio Cortes Sr.) He was the last municipal mayor and the first city mayor. Despite our number, he never neglected us. And I learned the fundamentals of public service from him. He was very patient (even when attacked in the newspaper or TV).

Now that I’m the mayor, I get his point because you cannot please everyone.

Name: Nilo “Olin” Seno

Age: 56

Highest educational attainment: Business management graduate; lawyer

Previous work experience:

Practicing lawyer

Kabataang Barangay chairman 1984

Barangay Councilor 1987 or 1988

City Councilor 2016-2019

What prompted you to run for mayor of Mandaue?

To give people an option. Because if I did not run for mayor, nobody would. Because there’s no other family or political family that is not with the incumbent mayor. Since the Ouanos and Soons are in his camp, of course they cannot run against him. We are just trying our luck since we felt that the people of Mandaue want change for the primary reason that they never felt that they were taken care of during the pandemic and during the Odette situation.

What are the three most urgent problems in Mandaue City that you plan to address if elected?

HOUSING of the urban settlers, which is related to the problem of flooding and sewerage and drainage system. There is already a master plan for this sewerage and drainage system, but the same has not been implemented by the city government.

GARBAGE DISPOSAL. Actually, we don’t have the capacity to process the solid waste output of the city. The solid waste problem has to be dealt with properly, professionally.

TRAFFIC. Mandaue is a conduit of the other cities like Cebu City and people going to Cebu City from Lapu-Lapu and the rest of the north cities and municipalities. So they have to go through Mandaue when going to Cebu City where the center of commerce is--unless Mandaue will be bypassed by perhaps a coastal road, a viaduct, or a skyway, or from the north a mountain highway, which will bypass the city of Mandaue by vehicles coming from the north. Then they can use those alternative routes and not add to the volume of vehicles plying the city roads of Mandaue.

What is your leadership style?

Transformational, like the leadership of Elon Musk, because we have to see everything that we do and try to look for a way to always make it better. And we have to constantly look for innovations and adopt the modern technology which will enhance and improve the services of the city.

My vision is to make the city a smart city. We will take advantage of the internet. We will try to do some contactless application for business permits and other applications that citizens would normally do through personal transactions so we will save on gas and everything. Eventually, that is consistent with saving the environment.

I will also try to implement a city-wide ID which will assign each Mandauehanon a QR code, which will be used in any transactions they will have in the city of Mandaue. This will facilitate the application or the transaction they may have in the city.

There are other beneficial technologies. We can improve the CCTV we have right now; this would aid the police force in monitoring peace and order.

How do you see Mandaue City 10 years from now?

If given the chance to lead the city for three consecutive terms, I see the city to be very advanced in terms of its equipment, the management style, the system, while the services will be more available or the best services will be given to the people of Mandaue City.

That is my vision of the city, a city where nobody is left behind.

Who is your model in leadership?

Elon Musk because he always strives for a better way of doing things and in doing so, he engages all his people, his employees, and he considers himself part of the team.

What is your edge over your opponent?

That I’m a business management graduate and I have taken up courses on management. If you take up your business management in UP, it’s like taking up a graduate study. UP Business Management is one of the best courses in the whole Philippines. And I am also a practicing lawyer.

When you lead the city, there are rules and regulations, memoranda and other circulars promulgated for conducting your affairs. That’s based on the law; you have to have a good grasp of that law. And when you make a law, you have to consider other laws so it will not run in conflict with them.

If you win, will you continue the projects that Mayor Jonas Cortes initiated?

Depends on whether these projects are feasible and realistic or not.

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