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Muntinlupa nearing the century mark

At the turn of the century, Muntinlupa was – in a manner of speaking – a political football.

Up to 1901, Muntinlupa was part of Morong District (which was later renamed Rizal Province). Two years later, the Philippine Commission decreed – for reason unknown – that Muntinlupa should be part of Laguna, more specifically, the town of Biñan.

But town residents, led by Marcelo Fresnedi, felt a closer affinity to the province of Rizal. Upon their petition, Muntinlupa once again became part of Rizal, but as a barrio of Taguig.

During the next twelve years, residents dreamed of becoming a separate municipality. They finally got their wish on December 19, 1917 (exactly 99 years ago today), when Governor General Francis Burton Harrison signed Executive Order 108, creating the Municipality of Muntinlupa. Vidal Joaquin became its first Mayor.

The name Muntinlupa (literally “small land”) is actually a misnomer. With a land area of 467 square kilometers, Muntinlupa is actually the fourth largest political unit in Metro Manila, next only to Quezon City, Manila and Makati.

Formerly ranked as a 5th class municipality in the late ‘80s, Muntinlupa metamorphosed into a highly urbanized first class city in 1995. Thanks, in large measure, to the confluence of good geography, a very supportive community and good local governance.

Depending on which direction one is headed, Muntinlupa can be considered either as the Gateway to Metro Manila or the Gateway to the fast-developing Calabarzon. With its huge tracts of prime land beckoning developers, Muntinlupa is definitely a prized business destination.

When one flies over Muntinlupa, one cannot help but notice large patches of green, a rarity in highly urbanized Metro Manila. This phenomenon has earned Muntinlupa its title as “Emerald City of the South”.

Up to the 1930s, Muntinlupa was mainly a fishing and farming community. Things changed with the relocation of the New Bilibid Prison from its old site in Oroquieta, Manila and the establishment of the Alabang Stock Farm.

During the war, Filipino political prisoners were locked up in Bilibid only to be sprung free from their Japanese captors by the famed Hunters ROTC guerrillas.

The Alabang Stock Farm became famous not only for producing breeding stock for dispersal but also for its Serum and Vaccine Laboratory (SVL). SVL was the only producer in the country of anti-venom serum, among other vaccines.

But just outside the boundaries of these two public institutions, was a virtual wild west. President Fidel V. Ramos recalls that one of his earliest assignments as a young Constabulary officer was to chase cattle rustlers in the vicinity of present-day Alabang Town Center. Decades later, PFVR was among the first to relocate to Muntinlupa when Ayala Alabang What probably brought impetus to Muntinlupa’s development was the construction of a single lane dirt road, cutting across former rice fields, which connected Highway 54 (now called EDSA) to the Alabang Junction. The dirt road was meant as short cut for around 10,000 Boy Scouts who were supposed to attend the 1958 10th World Jamboree in Mount Makiling, Laguna.

The dirt road eventually become the South Super Highway. It was not long before factories started sprouting on both sides of the highway. Because of its proximity to Makati, Muntinlupa benefitted from the southward expansion of business. First came Ayala. Much later, Filinvest and other top business names.

At the local government, things also started to pick up. The LGU tapped various stakeholders – principally the newly-relocated business leaders who made Muntinlupa their second home. Together with representatives from Muntinlupa’s other sectors, they helped craft a strategic development plan which aimed, among others, to make Muntinlupa a very business-friendly and green community.

Post-Edsa, Muntinlupa was the first Metro Manila LGU to fully computerize its real property tax administration (RPTA), making it number one (per the Department of Finance) in realty tax collection efficiency. By 1987, a one-stop one-shop business environment was fully in place.

Human resource development took center stage alongside infrastructure development. Public education was boosted with the establishment of the Muntinlupa Polytechnic College (now Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Muntinlupa), the Muntinlupa Science High School, and the Muntinlupa Business High School.

Muntinlupa expanded its public health program with the opening of Ospital ng Muntinlupa and the refurbishing of city health centers. Muntinlupa gave meaning to accountability and transparency by institutionalizing its annual State of the Municipality (now City) Address. Muntinlupa also actively promoted sister city relationships with both international and local counterparts.

Muntinlupa is currently headed by Jaime R. Fresnedi (City Mayor) and Rufino Rozanno Biazon (Congressman). The following make up the City Council: Celso A. Dioko (Vice Mayor and Presiding Officer), Councilors (District I): Ivee A. Tadefa, Atty. Patricio L. Boncayao, Jr., Bal Niefes, Stephanie G. Teves, Louisito A. Arciaga. Allan Camilon, Ringo A. Teves, Alexander B. Diaz. Councilors (District II): Christine Abas, Grace Gonzaga, Ma. Dhesiree G. Arevalo, Lucio Bago Constantino, Victor Ulanday, Marissa Rongavilla, Rafael T. Sevilla, Lester Baes.

Year after year, Muntinlupa has been recognized for achievements in various fields of governance.

To mention just some of the most recent awards: ISO 9001 – Quality Management System (City Government of Muntinlupa, Ospital ng Muntinlupa, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Muntinlupa); Seal of Child-Friendly Local Governance (from DSWD and DILG); Runner-up, International Best Practice Competition (from Asian Productivity Organization and Development Academy of the Philippines (2015); Seal of Good Financial Housekeeping (DILG); Seal of Good Local Governance (DILG); Special Citation as Most Business-Friendly LGU (PCCI); Excellent Rating on Anti-Red Tape (Civil Service Commission).

The city police force was rated “Best in Crime Solution Efficiency” in 2015.

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(Atty. Ignacio R. Bunye)

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