Good governance means good business and good economic growth. Region 6, of which Iloilo City and province are a part, has the fastest growing economy among the regions in the country at 9.3 percent as of 2022. The region also has some of the most progressive LGUs doing the right things not just to attract investors, but also to make the lives of people pleasant.
A few weeks ago, Iloilo City was recognized by PCCI as the Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit (LGU) in the Philippines this year. The city, according to PCCI, won the award for showcasing commendable efforts in adopting and instituting innovative and best practices in good governance in partnership with the private sector.
Mayor Jerry P. Treñas said the PCCI recognition is a “testament of our collective efforts in making the city a welcoming hub for businesses and entrepreneurs, and indicates the relentless effort of the Iloilo City government in improving the ease of doing business.”
LGUs generally have a bad reputation for governance and for being unfriendly to business. This is why PCCI annually “recognizes LGUs that have demonstrated outstanding effort in instituting good governance reforms to promote trade and investments, transparency, accountability, and efficiency in delivering business services to generate inclusive and sustainable growth, and fast-track local economic development.”
A year ago, Mayor Treñas said they had an excellent year, receiving awards and accolades from everywhere and everyone for their efforts to create a livable, progressive, sustainable, and resilient city, emphasizing work-life balance.
Now the Ilonggos are ready to go to the next level… a comprehensive public-private partnership plan for making the region more attractive to investors. Last Monday, the program was launched with an investor roadshow held at the Conrad Hotel by the Metro Iloilo- Guimaras Economic Development Council (MIGEDC) in partnership with the Iloilo Economic Development Foundation, Inc.
Metro Iloilo-Guimaras has a rich pool of human resources, with competencies in a wide range of academic, scientific, and technical skills. There are 26 universities and colleges, including a branch of the University of the Philippines, that graduate thousands every year, providing trained manpower. It was also announced last Monday that La Salle is breaking ground on a college campus in Pavia next year.
The business forum organizers told the investors that the cost of living in Iloilo is 25 percent cheaper than Metro Manila. Minimum wage is P480/day to NCR’s P610. Cost of food in supermarkets and restaurants is up to 30 percent cheaper than NCR. Rental of apartments is up to 60 percent cheaper.
The other advantage of this Iloilo Metro Group are the 15 public and private hospitals with 2,000 bed capacity. One of these is Medical City, with its very modern facilities similar to its other sister hospitals in Metro Manila, Clark, Santa Rosa, and Guam. There is also a hospital managed by Ayala.
Iloilo City and the surrounding municipalities are interconnected by excellent roads, among them the 15 kilometer, four-lane President Corazon Aquino Avenue, commonly referred to as the circumferential road that has eased traffic congestion and opened new areas for development.
Mayor Treñas told me the port and the airport are up for privatization. ICTSI is interested in the port. And for the airport, Manny Villar (whose father is from Iloilo) and the Aboitiz group expressed interest. The Lopezes, he said, are interested in an electric BRT for the city. The Swedish government is giving a $1 million grant for the Metro Iloilo BRT feasibility study.
Ilonggos provide the best reason for investors to come. They are hardworking and have a lot of consumer-buying power. I remember wondering who will buy all those condo units Megaworld was feverishly constructing at the site of the old airport. The sales manager of Megaworld told me they are almost sold out, even those under construction.
It was explained to me that Iloilo’s maritime legacy has produced a good number of ship officers manning international vessels. When they and other OFWs come home, they buy condo units for their families. I also remember a bank manager who said that the Ilonggos are very thrifty and very liquid. In fact, banks take in deposits from Iloilo to lend in Negros.
The mayor said economic developments are moving beyond the borders of Iloilo City, creating the Metro Iloilo-Guimaras Alliance looking for investors to partner with them. Investment opportunities are being offered in ICT-BPM; logistics; manufacturing; tourism; healthcare and real estate, among others.
It is interesting that Ilonggos who have made their mark in the national business scene were on hand to support this effort. The forum was presented by DoubleDragon Corp. and supported by First Gen Corp.
DoubleDragon is the fast-growing property and retail group of Injap Sia, a native of Iloilo City who started with his Mang Inasal chain, sold it to Jollibee for billions, and used the proceeds to put up DoubleDragon. First Gen is the power company of the Lopez family whose patriarch, the late Don Eugenio Lopez Sr., started from Iloilo before becoming a national force in business and industry.
Also supportive of this investor drive is the group of Ricky Razon through MORE Electric; Aboitiz InfraCapital; Rockwell Land; Ayala Land; Unionbank among others.
Among the initial projects are the following:
A food hub in Cabatuan… with facilities for loading and unloading agricultural products. The project includes a rice mill and warehouse, a food processing and packaging center, an abattoir, and a food storage facility.
A special economic zone in Legones… Ideal for light to medium industries. Its master plan has been given PEZA assurance that it has met the criteria and approvals from authorities.
A retirement village in Santa Barbara… designed for a growing market of expats and local senior citizens…
A technology park in San Miguel… available for an IT-BPM company and integrated with commercial spaces, a transport terminal and a provision for a training center.
There are other projects that the Ilonggos hope will find investors.
Having been kept outside of the political kulambo during the Duterte years, Iloilo just focused on business. It is now ready to make its economic growth faster than ever.
REA HERE: https://www.philstar.com/business/2023/11/22/2313201/iloilo-means-business#:~:text=Region%206%2C%20of%20which%20Iloilo,the%20lives%20of%20people%20pleasant.