By Alice Hernandez Reyes
Almost nine months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting the Executive Director of the National Parks Development Committee, Penelope Diaz Belmonte, who struck me as a most extraordinary public official in Philippine politics.
She had been handpicked by President Rodrigo R. Duterte to head the agency and to effect the needed changes .
With Aliw Awards Foundation ,Inc. officers Tess Tan and Aristeo Garcia, I had gone to her office to present a proposal for a Walk of Fame for Live Entertainers at the Rizal Park., which would be part of the foundation’s 40th anniversary activities.
The Executive Director enthusiastically welcomed our proposal .
We got to know more about this charming lady, barely six months in office at the time, who has truly been an agent of change at the NPDC.
For starters, she went around the Park incognito to find out what needed to be done at the Park. She opened Rizal Park to the public, abolished parking fees and vendors’ rentals and organized the vendors to ensure cleanliness and beautification (kalinisan at kagandahan) in the park.
“We are not an income-generating agency,” she pointed out.
“Our mandate is to have a park for the people.”
Since that May meeting, despite a lack of funds, Executive Director Belmonte has accomplished much at Rizal Park, beautifying it, eliminating possible sources of graft and corruption, making it truly the people’s park.
Last week, Aristeo Garcia and I went back to the NPDC to see her. She gently chided us, and rightly so, for our inaction as regards the Walk of Fame.
Apologizing profusely, we promised to be back by January 17 to finalize our partnership for the history-making Walk of Fame, which should be ready by May this year. exactly a year after our first meeting.
Executive Director Belmonte, in less than two years at the job, has demonstrated that change indeed is possible , if one has the will and the heart to serve the people.
May her tribe increase!