MANILA — The Mayors Council of Guam has arranged a trip to the Philippines that will give a number of mayors and interested village residents a close look at aspects of business medical care and residential options in the Philippines. The visit will further cement mayoral ties with the council’s counterpart in the Philippines and discuss some links of interest to both locations.

Mayor Paul M. McDonald of Agana Heights president of the council is head of the Guam group of more than 60 people which will include10 mayors and vice mayors. Other mayoral participants are Mayors Frank Blas of Tamuning Danny Sanchez of Umatac Jose Terlaje of Yona Jessie Palican of Barrigada and Vice Mayor June Blas Melissa Savares of Dededo John Cruz of Hagåtña Carol Tayama of Agat and Vice Mayor Robert Hoffman of Sinajana.

McDonald told the Journal “We are going to meet with the tourism department the state department and the Metro Manila Mayor’s League. We opened up the visit for constituents who are all paying their way.”

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and Teresita A. Mendiola consul general of the Philippines to Guam coordinated the Aug. 6 to 12 visit. The group will fly Philippine Airlines and will stay in the Makati Shangri-La Hotel.

The group will visit three major health-care facilities in the Philippines: St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City the Asian Hospital in Mandaluyong City and Makati Medical Center at the Makati central business district.

“A lot of these people are coming to see for themselves the facilities and the affordable practical treatment that they can have. Every day more patients are being referred over to the Philippines because of the cost ” McDonald said. Members of the Mayors Council and their employees fall under government of Guam health care and presently have a choice between Calvo’s SelectCare and Staywell Insurance. “SelectCare was gracious enough to make arrangements for the institutions we are going to visit ” he said.

The visiting Guamanians will do more than just look at health-care options. “A lot of the group that are coming with us are going to take advantage of the trip by getting physical examinations Lasik surgery for their eyes and get their teeth fixed — because its more affordable than anywhere in the United States. Quite a few have asked me to make appointments for them.”

In addition the Guam mayors and residents will meet with officials of Metro Bank the Philippines largest bank in terms of assets. The meeting will be coordinated by First Metro Investment Corp. the bank’s investment arm. “Some of them have shown interest in investing in condominiums and apartments to facilitate their families as they get treated in the Philippines ” McDonald said.

According to Christina Bautista deputy for domestic subsidiaries of First Metro Investment the company is “hosting snacks” for the Guam mayors and has invited some of its officers to be present for any questions the chief executives may have on possible investments. “We [Metrobank] have an office in Guam and we’re basically presenting to them things the group is into. We have a lot of subsidiaries such as a real estate company Federal Land so they [the mayors] are going to Marikina to visit a development there and to the Manila Doctors Hospital which is owned by the Metrobank Foundation.”

The mayoral delegation will visit a variety of facilities. “We’re actually also going on a tour of the agriculture and aquaculture facilities — knowing that in the Philippines they are really advanced in their raising of fish food like tilapias milk fish and shrimp ” McDonald said.

The Mayors Council of Guam sees a variety of benefits in closer links with the Metro Manila Mayors League whose members represent 17 cities and municipalities in the metropolis. The Guam mayors will pay courtesy calls on three leading mayors in the metropolis: Lito Atienza of Manila and president of the league; Jejomar Binay of Makati possibly the country’s richest in terms of taxpayers; and Sonny Belmonte of Quezon City. A Department of Foreign Affairs representative said there is also a possible conference among the Metro Manila and Guam chief executives in the works although this has not been finalized as of press time. He said they are still finalizing the list of those who will actually be attending the conference “as some of the (Guam) participants are family members.” Those who confirmed to meet the Guam mayors — for courtesy calls — are the mayors of Makati Marikina (Marites Fernando) Manila and vice mayor of Quezon City.

“They will be visiting hospitals as the Philippine government is promoting medical tourism ” he said. At the same time the mayors will try to resolve some problems with the insurance guarantee process among Metro Manila hospitals “because there were certain cases in the past ” he said “that Makati Medical had refused to recognize Guam patients despite their insurance.”

Mayor Binay expressed pleasure at the visit of the Guam mayors and is set on showing off his city’s efficient health program.

“We are proud and privileged to be one of the cities to be visited by the Guam mayors. It will give us another opportunity to showcase of multi-awarded health program. By the same token we also look forward to learning from the experience and best practices of the chief executives of Guam ” Binay told the Journal.

The Makati City government’s health program has been recognized by the Philippine Department of Health the World Health Organization and was recently awarded in a joint project of the United Nations Human Settlement Program and the municipality of Dubai United Arab Emirates.

The health program better known as “Yellow Card Plus of Makati ” provides indigent and low-income residents and other beneficiaries with access to quality health care through subsidized hospitalization and free outpatient services at the city-run Ospital ng Makati.

Likewise Yellow Card beneficiaries are entitled to free regular check-ups or consultations at the city’s 28 fully equipped barangay health centers. They also enjoy subsidized services in clinical laboratories at the hospital and the barangays. Four lying-in centers in the barangays are also equipped to handle normal birth deliveries of beneficiaries.

Mayor Atienza’s staff however is treating the visit as a simple courtesy call on their chief executive and declined to comment on it. “The DFA is entirely handling the affair ” said Sheryl an assistant in the mayor’s office “and we were just told of the courtesy call and the possible conference among mayors.”

Also on the itinerary of the Guam mayors is a trip to Tagaytay Highlands one of the country’s premier golf and country clubs courtesy calls on Tourism Secretary Ace Durano and Interior and Local Government Secretary Angelo Reyes. Durano is a scion of a powerful political clan in Cebu whose municipality of Danao is the gun-making capital of the Philippines. Reyes a retired general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines was chief of staff of former president Joseph Estrada before he broke away in 2000 to support the country’s second people power revolt paving the way for Estrada’s ouster and then vice president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to assume the presidency.

The two groups may touch on the issue of a U.S. visa waiver for Guam McDonald said. “It could be discussed. We can discuss it and bring it up with our congresswoman. If we all agree we could come up with a resolution to organize and encourage Congress and the U.S. to help and support it and get this visa waiver.

“We will have a conference with our counterparts in the Philippines. We’re trying to start up a mayor’s league between Guam and the Philippines so that we can help each other with disaster relief.

“There are related issues we want to discuss with other mayors like [tsunami] early warning systems that the Philippines was provided funding for by the United Nations. Guam wasn’t included but maybe we can also benefit through our relationship — we are so close to them. Because of our relationship we can hook up to their system ” he said. “We have a lot of other issues to bring up like a lot of relatives that have lost contact with relatives in the Philippines in Guam and the U.S.” McDonald said a link would enable those relatives to find each other.

He said the group was interested in “raw materials like bamboo and other furniture that they have in the Philippines that we can bring out here to benefit our community. A couple of the travelers have already been asking if they can bring in products for fundraising and have sales.”

The village of Dededo has a sister city agreement with Iloilo a city in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines with a population of about 367 000 and the entire island of Guam has an agreement with Quezon City which has a population of 2.17 million making it the largest city in the Philippines in terms of people.

The sister city agreement between Dededo and Iloilo City was signed during the annual ball of the Iloilo Association of Guam April 9. Signing for Iloilo City was Mayor Jerry Perez Trenas and for Dededo Melissa Savares one of whose parents hail from Iloilo as well.

The agreement calls for the exploration of cultural and educational exchanges between the two cities. Dededo is home to many Ilonggos who are descendants of Filipinos recruited to help rebuild Guam after World War II. The village also has the highest concentration of Filipinos on Guam.

Quezon City officials however did not have any information on its twin-city agreement with Guam as this effort was spearheaded by a former councilor. “We don’t have any documents about it ” said Mitch a member of staff of Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista.

McDonald hopes visits between the two locations will continue. “I am sure that we will invite them to have a conference next year. We are hoping to convince them to agree that meeting will be here in Guam so every mayor will have a chance to participate. We did have a chance to entertain five mayors from the Pangasinan area. We had lunch with them. It was a nice chance to get to know each other.” The mayors visited Guam at the invitation of the Pangasinan Association of Guam he said. MBJ