Hon. Maria Gina M. Lizares is a first-term Mayor of Sipalay City in the province of Negros Occidental in the Philippines. Mayor Lizares is the only woman among the five newly elected city mayors in a total of sixteen cities in the Western Visayas region. Before she was elected as Mayor in May 2019, she served as the City Vice Mayor for three full terms or a total of nine years. Since she started serving the city government, she devoted time to stakeholder engagement which led to long-term institutional partnerships for development with the academe, non-government organizations and private institutions beyond the province.
Mayor Gina is very passionate about the environment, education, nutrition, and innovation that she always put a premium on collaboration and smart investment on her priority programs which are anchored on the identified needs of the people and her vision of growth for the city. She graduated with a degree in Economics and honed her leadership brand throughout a decade of actual experience in the service. She is presently completing the Asia-Pacific Mayors Academy on Sustainable Urban Development Fellowship which is jointly organized by United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) - in cooperation with the United Nations University, Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS); the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), United Cities and Local Governments Asia-Pacific (UCLG ASPAC) and Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES).
One of the innovative marks of Mayor Gina’s leadership is the Sipalay City BLT Central Kitchen that serves healthy but low-cost lunch for thousands of undernourished public school children since 2017. This Central Kitchen is the first in Negros island and the only solar-powered kitchen of its kind in the Philippines as of now. This collaborative program has opened more doors for other projects such as zero waste catering services for the mothers, learning hub for the youth and farm-to-kitchen initiatives for the small farmers in the city. This year, a new BLT Central Kitchen will be established to cater to more schools in addressing undernutrition among in-school children and a community-based Central Kitchen which will serve the bigger community and engage more people to stir development in the city.
Mayor Gina’s leadership has made Sipalay City one of the go-to cities to learn and maximize the power of community engagement in making government initiatives sustainable. Her drive for innovation has attracted more stakeholders to engage with the City Government of Sipalay and co-own the programs that continuously grow and evolve.