Vergel “Nene” Aguilar may not fit the typical image of a statesman with a bold, commanding presence. Mayor Nene is after all, as his friends and family will agree, shy, soft-spoken and not fond of being in the limelight.
In his life as a private citizen, Aguilar was a property developer and business man. It took much prodding from the family to convince Aguilar to take up the legacy of his father, former Las Piñas mayor and congressman, Dr. Filemon Aguilar and run for public office in 1992.
Aguilar’s business sense and entrepreneurial acumen have made him an effective leader of the city.
Employing the business principle of cost efficiency, Aguilar orders the city’s garbage collection and management program by administration to get rid of excessive contracts with private garbage contractors and was able to generate 100 million pesos in savings for the city. This achievement caught the attention of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Department of Finance who proclaimed Las Piñas as one of the best-managed cities in the country.
These cost efficiency savings were directly translated to livelihood projects, school buildings, health centers and road construction and improvement among others.
“In private business, every resource must count and must achieve a specific goal in the most cost-efficient manner,” says Aguilar.
Sustainable development through livelihood training was also a key priority for Aguilar. The city’s training centers offer residents practical skills such as basket and coconet weaving—skills which could be turned into a continuous and stable source of income.
Even as normal citizen who was already a billionaire property developer, Aguilar also never lost sight of his life as the importance of education. Public school education in both elementary and high school levels is free for all bona fide Las Piñas residents. Aguilar went a step further and subsidized a four-year business course and one-year IT certificate courses for Las Piñas youths.
Now on his fifth term as mayor, Aguilar has instituted many positive changes in the city of Las Piñas that have been recognized by more than 30 national and international award-giving bodies. In 2000, Las Piñas was the first and only city in the country named the United Nations Awardee for Environmental Protection.
“In private business, as in politics, there has to be political will—a firm hand in running the day to day affairs of the enterprise or government unit,” says Aguilar whose management and governance style is very hands-on.
“In a sense he said it is more challenging to run a city government than your own business because of the larger accountability to constituents,” he adds. Like any successful businessman will tell you, strategy or the different ways goals can be achieved is vital to the formula for success.
“A leader has to set up realistic and do-able priorities and then outline a reasonable time frame within which these goals should be achieved,” Aguilar stresses.
“I want Las Piñas to continue growing economically while retaining its old charm; a harmonious coming together of the rich history of our past and possibilities of the future. But most of all, we want to continue being the place our people proudly call ‘Our Home,’” Aguilar concludes.