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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Philippine Cities Thriving Despite Economic Crisis Local government officials continue investment plans

Philippine cities are moving forward with development plans despite the impact of the economic crisis on local communities, according to the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA).

In January, Balanga, Bataan—in only its ninth year as a city—designated an 80-hectare site as a university town. Plans call for developing a world-class educational center on the site by 2020 to support the city’s business development goals. For the last eight years, the progressive city has provided 2,000 scholarships and shouldered miscellaneous fees for public elementary students, translating into Php3.2 million savings for local parents.

Balanga is confident, according to ISA officials, of meeting its goal of becoming a premiere educational and business center. Its efforts towards that end have already been recognized. Last year, Balanga was named the most business-friendly local government unit in the Philippines by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

ISA will conduct one in a series of its Public Governance Forums on March 11-12, at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza. Representatives of Balanga and other fast-developing cities will report on how their cities are progressing in the development programs despite the impact of the global economic crisis on their local economies. Approximately 200 local government officials are expected to attend the Forum.

Other cities to be represented include Bayawan, Negros, which is pursuing efforts to become an agricultural center. The city government distributed 1,446 thousand cavans of rice seeds worth P1.16 million to farmers in the city in 2008. Bayawan is consistently one of the top rice producers in Negros, thanks to the support of the City Agriculture Office (CAO), which provides funding and distribution of organic fertilizers.

Last year, the CAO produced 20,508 packs of Bio-N, an organic fertilizer, which was distributed to 4,100 farmers in the city. The city has vast economic potential, with 140 hectares available for agricultural development and production.

Iloilo City is also improving its infrastructure this year to support tourism. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently declared the city’s 10.6% annual average growth in tourism as the best performance for the country in the tourism industry. Noteworthy projects include the new Iloilo airport. Iloilo City plans to improve other transport infrastructure with the construction of its second mega-flyover this year, following the construction of the Gen. Luna-Infante flyover in 2008. The city is the site of major foreign investment targeting the tourism sector.

Another city investing in local projects despite the downturn is Calbayog, Samar. Calbayog is developing into an agro-industrial community and is leading efforts to coordinate development programs for the region by championing a unification initiative with the theme “One Visayas, One People, One Destiny.” The local government supports local and international celebrations, such as Women’s Month this March, which can support women’s rights while fostering increased tourism. The Calbayog city government also offers free medical, legal, and counseling care for women. Regina Rabuya, chairperson of the local Women and Family institution says these programs are an acknowledgement of the contributions of local women to the progress of the city.

The cities of Calbayog, Iloilo, Bayawan, and Balanga are co-convenors in the ISA Public Governance Forum March 11-12, at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza. Representatives of these cities will report on how their cities continue to move forward with their development programs this year. ISA is an independent non-partisan, not-for-profit institution that seeks to improve public governance through citizen participation.

The two-day forum will also feature a Learning Institute patterned after the Balanced Scorecard, a Harvard Business School Measurement and Management System used in business and now applied to Philippine public governance. To register for the forum, please contact Rona Castillo at or call 7573500 local 311.

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