Hagedorn blames mayor for Puerto Princesa ‘woes’
MANILA, Philippines–A faltering move to oust Mayor Lucilo Bayron of Puerto Princesa City through a citizens’ recall initiative has drawn the support of a former city executive who lamented local mismanagement in one of the country’s top tourist destinations.
Edward Hagedorn, mayor of the Palawan capital for about 20 years, cited “rising criminality, particularly drug cases; peace and order problems; environmental degradation, which never happened in the past; and a sagging tourism industry, the city’s bread and butter,” among others.
“All these are proof of mismanagement of local affairs,” Hagedorn said of the performance of his former vice mayor, who denied the accusations.
“From a mere observer, these factors have prompted me to be an active participant in the move by some 40,000 Puerto Princesa City folk to push for the holding of a recall election against Mr. Bayron,” Hagedorn said in an interview with the Inquirer.
“We’re talking here of a cross-section of residents who have been dismayed, if not really mad, about the current problems facing the city,” he said.
Bayron has disputed Hagedorn’s allegations, saying tourist arrivals have increased during his administration.
“In my first seven months in office—from July 2013 to January 2014—tourist arrivals surpassed tourist arrivals during the same period [in 2012-2013] by more than 12,000 tourists,” Bayron said in a statement.
He claimed that investors’ confidence in his administration had improved, citing some 6,500 new business establishments operating in Puerto Princesa. The crime rate, he said, “decreased because of improved police presence.”
Hagedorn expressed serious concern over the “incursion” of the communist New People’s Army into the city’s rural barangays (villages).
Worse, he pointed out, was the “destruction of the environment, which we strongly fought against in the past.”
“Every single year during my term, we planted thousands of mangroves and other trees. But did you know what Bayron’s men did? When he took over, they started cutting the trees. They wrecked the environment. They’re showing their true colors,” he said.
Hagedorn lamented that “from its former image as the country’s cleanest and greenest city, Puerto Princesa is fast becoming something else. That’s why I am both sad and angry.”
At the same time, he said he was very concerned about the city’s allegedly declining tourism industry.
“From 24 flights a day when I stepped down, it’s now down to 16, sometimes a much lower 12 … When we won in our bid to make the subterranean river one of the world’s Seven New Wonders of Nature, we had almost 600,000 tourists a month,” he said.
Earlier, Bayron, speaking through his lawyer Winston Gonzales, dismissed the petition for his recall, which he described as “highly doubtful and dubious.”
The recall petition was filed on March 17 in the Commission on Elections. On April 1, the poll body issued a resolution suspending all recall election proceedings “until the funding issue shall have been issued.”
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