Second district holding back Rizal economy

"Change might really be on hand."



Like the development of some national economies; the development of regional or provincial economies can proceed in an uneven and inconsistent manner. As a result, some parts of a region or province end up showing less—often, for less—economic progress than other parts. A case in point is Rizal, the R in Calabarzon. 

Prior to the inplementation of the metropol concept—the clustering of a number of major population centers into a single administrative entity—the province named after this country's national hero shared, with the city of Manila, the position of center of the entire Manila Bay area. Rizal was a much bigger province then: all the municipalities east of Bulacan, west of Aurora and north of Cavite were parts of it.

Then came martial law and, with the placement of legislative authority in the hands of the President of the Philippines, the beginning of rule by Presidential decree. At the behest of his wife Imelda, President Ferdinand Marcos issued a decree creativity a Metro Manila Commission (MMC ) and placing Rizal municipalities—Pasig, Marikina, Taguig, Pateros, Mandaluyong, San Juan, Makati, Parañaque, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa, together with Manila, Quezon City, Pasay, Navotas and Valenzuela under the jurisdiction of the MMC.

Rizal was almost totally emasculated. Its very own capital, Pasig, was taken away from in it and was made into just another MMC component. Unfortunately for its future development and progress, the municipalities taken away from Rizal with one stroke of the Presidential pen were the province’s high-income parts. What was left to Rizal were the less urbanized and agricultural municipalities to the province's north and east.

The removal of nine—almost half—of its municipalities dealt a heavy blow to the political standing of Rizal; its more developed, high-income components had been taken away. But the blow that the municipalities' removal has dealt to Rizal's economy was near devastating. With the province no longer able to depend on the contributions to the Rizal treasury of municipalities like Makati, Mandaluyong and Parañaque there was now for less provincial revenue for the economic and social development of Rizal's poorer municipalities. These municipalities—San Mateo, Baras, Teresa, Morong, Tanay, Cardona, Piillia, Jalajala and Montalban—comprise the Second Congressional District of Rizal.

Just how pastoral and less-developed the Second District nine municipalities have remained can be seen from a car ride—perhaps during this Holy Week?—from Antipolo City to Montalban, the last municipality before Aurora. The entire nine-municipality area has remained agricultural in character, there is hardly and manufacturing activity, infrastructure is deficient and the general enviroment is characterized by lack of dynamism, especially economic dynamism. The Rodriguez political dynasty, which was founded by the late Eulogio Rodriguez Jr., has presided over the fate of Rizal for many decades. Indeed, it may be said that the Rodriguezes have been treating Rizal like a family heirloom. If Rizal has been lagging behind the Calamba trio—Cavite, Laguna and Batangas—the blame should be laid at the door of the Rodriguez clan. The widespread sentiment in the nine municipalities of the Second District of Rizal is that nothing much will happen, and the District will remain economically stagnant, if the Rodriguez dynasty remains in power.

That may not be much longer. In the coming election the Rodriguez dynasty's stranglehold on Second District politics is facing serious challenge for perhaps the first time. The challenge has come from a young lawyer brimming with idealism, competence and a passionate desire to turn things around. The young challenger is Fidel Nograles.

It is not only Fidel Nograles' excellent academic preparation (Ateneo Law School, Harvard Law School) that makes him a dangerous challenger to the incumbent. It is the governance experience as both the national and rhe provincial level. He has served the Office of the President in various capacities, and before filing his candidacy for Representative, Fidel Nograles was the provincial administrator of Rizal.

Nograles is well aware that among the provinces immediately surrounding Metro Manila—Bulacan, Cavite and Laguna—Rizal has been the laggard, and he knows that the slow progress of the Second District has operated as a drag on Rizal's economic development. He says he knows just what to do, when he is elected.

With Fidel Nograles's election, change will come to the nine sleepy municipalities of the eastern half of Rizal. That change is long overdue.

Topics: Fidel Nograles , Rizal , Ferdinand Marcos , Economy
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