Thursday, April 25, 2013

Investing In Local Economic Development (LED): Competitive Cities On The Rise *

(Last of four parts)

* A paper presented by San Fernando City Mayor Oscar S. Rodriguez, to the Plenary Session, 38th Philippine Business Conference, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry on October 9, 2012 held in Manila Hotel, Manila.

Our Next Steps

We in San Fernando City view the future with optimism and with firm resolve to work even harder, guided by our own people’s changing needs. We are constantly on the lookout for emerging patterns elsewhere that might be of value to us.

As more and more converge on cities, for instance, we realized the wisdom of interconnecting with other cities, particularly those contiguous to us in terms of geography, resource profile, or even culture. No man is an island, and the same is true for a city. 

Just recently, the City of San Fernando entered into a sister city agreement with our neighbor to the north, the ever vibrant Angeles City. This partnership, aside from being a necessary element for resiliency and signaling an end to parochialism, gives us opportunities for cooperative efforts to advance our mutual interests.

We have also supported the bid of another neighbor in the province, Mabalacat, to become a new city. The graduation to cityhood is justified by its recent revenue and overall economic gains. I have reached out to the officials and the people of Mabalacat in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation.

These new steps we are taking are on account of new studies on the viability of cluster-based strategies in city developments. Development planners tell us that as economies become more globalized, cities will need to adopt policies that embrace the tendency for industry clustering. 

Our recent moves seem to be in step with this thinking. We shall continue to look for more partners with which we can “cluster” in our search for sustainable development and growth that will benefit our people. 

Certainly, San Fernando will also keep its ears to the ground for emerging trends on such concerns as climate change adaptation and mitigation, and urban environmental infrastructure development. 

On climate change adaptation, San Fernando recently became the first LGU to adopt a Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Code that defines all policies and management directions that prepared the city for natural calamities. 

On urban environmental infrastructure, we are developing our own approach to the phenomenon of rural-to-urban migration by preparing an “arrival city” within San Fernando that can absorb such migration without radically disturbing the level and quality of basic services.

To meet all of these goals, the City of San Fernando will continue to welcome private businesses as important partners in development. Our guiding principle in dealing with private enterprises who want to take part in improving the lot of the people of San Fernando is simple: On the very first day of my first term, I made it clear to my staff and to the City Hall employees that I would not tolerate corruption, bribery, extortion, and all practices that in the past had stifled progress in my city.

PADC Experience 

In the beginning, some of our employees and business people doing business with us found that difficult, but I actually initiated administrative action against a few who were caught engaging in these practices.

In my own office, people who have set up businesses in the city and gained from those business, still hint at offers of gifts as a way of giving thanks. I always cut them short. And I quickly add that if they really want to show gratitude, perhaps they can look for projects that will directly benefit the Fernandinos. (I always decline gifts)

Indeed, some of them have, on their own initiative, proposed to undertake small or medium sized infrastructure projects in certain barangays. These projects now help prevent floods or ease traffic flow in some parts of the city. 

It is not just the City and its residents that have benefited from this project. Let me share with you a comment from the proponent of this highly successful PPP project. The managing director of Philippine Abattoir Development Corp., Mr. Darwin Sayoc, recently went on record and told an interviewer the following:

“In the course of our negotiations, I was immensely impressed and struck by the Mayor’s no-nonsense style of leadership. He made sure that we do everything right by talking to us in very clear terms that he will not tolerate dishonestly or any illegal act. As an investor, we are so lucky to have struck gold in San Fernando City!”

The City of San Fernando is now in a position to tell private individuals or enterprises like you who intend to undertake projects in our city, that perhaps you too can “strike gold” in our city. All you have to do is follow the rules and take the “tuwid na daan” and look for viable projects in our city.   /MP

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