What Mandaleños can expect from reelected mayor Ben Abalos Sr.

When we talk about the City of Mandaluyong, we think about the busy streets, crowded malls, vast industrial complexes and other attractions that make the City not just a tourist hub, but also a competitive business district in the National Capital Region.

Another important thing tied to the City of Mandaluyong — figure, in this case, — is the surname, Abalos, which is tied with the modern history and leadership of the City for more than three decades.

It’s the people bearing the surname, Abalos, who have led the City into further economic development during the past two decades alone. They include now Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos who led the City from 1998 to 2004 and from 2007 to 2016 and his wife, now-Vice Mayor Menchie Abalos who has just been elected for the position this year after serving as Mayor for two terms.

However, the Abalos’ grip on power started way back in 1986, when Benjamin Abalos Sr. first held the position as mayor of Mandaluyong City, leading the City first as officer-in-charge before securing the position for a decade, from 1988 to 1998, and taking over other national posts.

Now that he’s back in power, what else could Mandalenos expect from him?

Talking to Daily Tribune through the online show Straight Talk, Abalos Sr. emphasized his partnership with Vice Mayor Menchie Abalos, with him focusing more on the economic aspect of the City.

“I told Menchie, ‘Can you take care of the sick? Take care of the elderly, while I focus on the economic aspect of the development of Mandaluyong,’” Abalos said.

The local economy is not new to Abalos, as he himself recalled during his previous leadership in Mandaluyong City where he managed to encourage businesses to invest in the City back in the day.

“Several times, I have to meet with Mr. Henry Sy, Kuok (Group of Companies) of Shangri-La, courting them to put-Shangri-La, to put-up (SM) Megamall. Yes, I was the one courting them, and the funny thing is I have made them agree to the offer,” Abalos said.

The Mayor also said that it was through these negotiations that they have been able to set-up facilities in the City.

“They approached me and said to me, ‘Can we rebuild these places as commercial areas?’ I said, ‘Why not? But you have to share with us your rental.’ ‘Why? I’m in a building. Why do we have to share the rental with you?’ ‘Yes, but you are occupying our air space.’ He couldn’t believe it, but he went back to me with ten million pesos because I asked for an advanced rental. That is how I was able to put our gymnasium,” Abalos recalled.

However, Abalos Sr.’s comeback came just as the City, and the whole country, is recovering from the Covid-19 Pandemic, which became a huge setback for local and national governments as the crisis drastically affected all sectors and industries.

In this case, the Mayor is continuing his economic efforts by negotiating with other investors and initiating projects that would give ease of access to commercial hubs.

“Actually, when I assumed the position, the City had lost two billion pesos because of the pandemic. We haven’t recovered yet. The truth is, we’re still approving those who are building establishments in our City,” Abalos said.

“Remember we had some factories? We had factories before, but the roads are too narrow. This is why I propose a project to widen up roads to make it more accessible to commercialized areas,” he added.

Aside from the local economy, healthcare is another priority under the mayoralship of Abalos Sr. in Mandaluyong, with him aiming for the kind of healthcare that will be accessible to the poor.

“I don’t want someone to be denied access to hospitalization because they don’t have money. I don’t want anybody denied access by reason of poverty. During my time, there was no law that prohibits the denial of medical services to people who can’t pay,” he said.

Abalos Sr. even briefly shared that they are targeting the opening of a new hospital in the City with a 321-bed capacity, and that they aim to have more medical equipment for Computed Tomography Scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

But above everything else, Abalos Sr. wants to keep an open governance that is accepting of the poor and the needy, which he also instills on his relatives who are also in certain positions of power.
“I told them, you can do something bad to the rich, but not to the poor. Not those below you. Never have a fight with a body lower than your level,” Abalos said.

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