Magalong touts COVID-19 response in Baguio campaign rally

The incumbent mayor faces three other contenders in May, including Mauricio Domogan, who served as local chief executive for a total of six terms

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Reelectionist Mayor Benjamin Magalong launched his official campaign on Sunday, March 27, by citing the COVID-19 pandemic management as a defining achievement of his administration.

Speaking in a mix of Filipino and English, Magalong said that while other cities grappled with the Delta variant surge for three to five months, Baguio was able to control it in a month and two days.

He said the city only took 28 days to stop the spread of the Omicron strain, compared to a two-month struggle in other cities in the country.

“I want to thank you all because we are now on Alert Level 1, and the reason for that is we were able to immediately bring down the [number of COVID-19 cases],” the mayor said.

Magalong stressed that the achievement was due to “effective and efficient health workers, frontliners, and the cooperation and compliance of community members to the minimum health standards.”

The National Task Force on the country’s COVID-19 response called Baguio’s transition program to the “new normal” as a model for its effective implementation of the Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate strategy.

The Department of Health also recognized the city’s mental health program and COVID-19 prevention policies in its Healthy Pilipinas Awards.

Second term

Magalong is seeking a second term under the Nationalist People’s Coalition. He became mayor of the Philippines’ summer capital in 2019, defeating eight other candidates, mostly veteran local politicians.

He won his first electoral contest after just over two years of retiring from the Philippine National Police as its Deputy Chief of Operations, and with a reputation as the officer who took on Malacanang in his probe of the 2015 Mamasapano clash.

The incumbent mayor faces three other contenders in May, including Mauricio Domogan, who served as mayor for a total of six terms, from 1992 to 2001 and 2010 to 2019.

Domogan in 2019 lost to incumbent representative Mark Go in the contest for mountain’s city lone congressional district.

The two other mayoralty candidates are former councilor Edison Bilog and Jeffrey Pini, an independent repeat candidate.

‘A better Baguio’

Magalong also took pride in the city receiving national and international awards for environmental achievements, citing turning the Irisan dumpsite into a working compost facility.

He pledged to continue with “good governance beyond politics,” and recalled the start of his term.

“On the first day of my office, we hit the ground running. We went to Irisan dumpsite, so we can smell the scent and grime, and experience how hard it is to live in that kind of environment, to open the eyes of my department heads that this is what the people of Baguio suffers from,” he said.

Where the city had failed to address the Irisan dumpsite problem for decades, Magalong’s administration was able to resolve the foul smell in just two months and transform the site into an ecological park in two years.

“Not many people are aware of this huge problem, and the majority of this pertains to the environment… Our strategic projects now are geared towards addressing these problems,” he told the media during his March 25 press conference to kick off the local campaign. –

Sherwin De Vera is a Luzon-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.

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