Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle “Beng” Garcia Climaco-Salazar’s brand of public governance has been anchored on SHE—security, health, and education. She served two terms as a city councilor before becoming vice mayor in 2004 and two terms as congresswoman before being mayor in 2013.
Even the “Zamboanga Siege,” which happened a few months after her election as mayor, did not stop Climaco-Salazar from solving her city’s health issues. Now in her last term, she shared a clear vision of engaging the barangays for a successful health program in the city, with the support of the national government agencies, the private sector, and non-government organizations.
Access to medicines
Climaco-Salazar enrolled her city in 2014 in the first cycle of the City Leadership and Governance Program (CLGP) by the Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) under a partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund.
During the 18-month program, the city improved the access to essential medicines to combat malnutrition, and decrease infant and maternal mortality rates. The mayor increased the health and social services budget and improved the medicine tracking and inventory system. She also addressed the need for health human resources and health financing.
In 2017, Zamboanga City was named the “Most Improved Local Government Unit,” and even ranked fourth nationwide in terms of resilience. That same year, Zamboanga City engaged in the second cycle of the CLGP under a partnership with the United States Agency for International Development.
With the guidance of then-regional health director Dr. Emilia Monicimpo, Climaco-Salazar sought to eradicate preventable diseases among children aged two years and younger by increasing the fully-immunized children (FIC) rate from 89.9% in 2017 to 92.21% in 2018. The city health office (CHO), in partnership with private medical practitioners and the Philippine Pediatric Society- Zamboanga City chapter, supported the expanded immunization program. Climaco-Salazar also convened the city’s hospitals to gather support for the city’s service delivery network (SDN) and referral systems. She met with the presidents of the private hospitals to discuss the city’s health problems and how they may contribute to the continuity of care.
At the onset of the pandemic in 2020, Climaco-Salazar immediately formed and headed the Task Force on COVID-19 to prevent the entry and spread of the virus in Zamboanga City.
The mayor has also consistently appealed to her constituents to submit themselves for COVID-19 vaccination. As of January 2022, the CHO data showed that the city is leading in the vaccination rollout in the region. Of the target population, 86.7% is partially inoculated, and the remaining 13.3% is fully vaccinated. The city is even offering to share its vaccines with other LGUs in the region.
With Climaco-Salazar’s leadership, the city government proved its capacity to face serious health challenges.