At the Dream Philippines Fair 2017, 300 government leaders and civil society influencers from around the country gathered to celebrate the best and the brightest work in public sector governance. Hosted by the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) and co-presented by the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) for the second year in a row, the event’s highlight was the recognition of 9 institutions for empowering their communities through governance. These institutions represented the sectors of local government, infrastructure and transportation, peace and security, education, and health.
Among these, the City Government of Legazpi was given the highest honor, the “Islands of Good Governance” award, for its milestone achievements in improving local tourism and employment through better governance. City Mayor Noel Rosal reported on progress toward Legazpi’s vision of being named among the Top 5 “convention destinations” in Luzon by 2020, citing an increase in conventions held in the city from 12 in 2012 to 130 so far for 2017. Legazpi was named a Top 14 tourist destination by the Department of Tourism (DOT) after an upward trend in tourist arrivals, which increased from 438 million in 2012 to 1.2 million in 2016. Most notably, the city’s improved business and employment climate has helped reduce poverty incidence in the city, which dipped from 30.7 in 2009, when Legazpi began its governance push, to 17.3 in as early as 2012. In his acceptance speech, Rosal remarked, “Governance is not about how fast you are able to do things, but about how much quality you can put into doing things. Mayors come and go, but making governance a shared responsibility—this is what it takes to be a competitive city.”
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), also an awardee organization, was represented by Undersecretary Ma. Catalina Cabral, who reported a breakthrough of 100% paving of the national road network. “What makes this a breakthrough is the idea that because of our completed, unbiased work, inclusive growth can be achieved,” she said. According to Cabral, DPWH’s next step is to work on projects outside the national road network that can assist growth in other sectors. For example, the agency is currently working with the DOT to build “tourism roads” or local roads contributing to tourism destinations; and with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) precisely to build roads that will facilitate business in DTI’s priority industries. The next idea they are hoping to put into action is to work with the Department of National Defense (DND) to build roads that can help facilitate military services.
Another inspiring story shared at the event was that of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office (PVAO). Headed by Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina, PVAO reported that improved governance led to the approval of an additional Php400 million for “Kagitingan Builders” or projects whose purpose is to call attention to veterans’ efforts and to promote love of country. These include the development of military shrines, staging of meaningful commemorative events, and increased publication of World War II- related testimonies.
Presenters and awardees from other sectors included Dr. Christia Padolina of Navotas City Hospital and Dr. Maria Lourdes Otayza of the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital and Medical Center for the health sector; Fr. Arnel Dizon of the University of San Agustin for the education sector; and Municipal Mayors Efren Pascual Jr. of Orani, Alice Pizarro of Pilar, and Gene Dela Fuente of Samal, all towns in the province of Bataan.
In his closing remarks at the awarding ceremony, ISA’s Alex Lacson cited the strength and maturity of institutions as crucial in nation-building—more so than culture and resources. He also congratulated the Dream Philippines Fair awardee organizations for having achieved real impact through the difficult work of good governance. “In the long term, we are building our Dream Philippines, which we know will take years to achieve,” Lacson said. “But in the short term, we are building hope for our people through your inspiring stories of leadership, development, and transformation.”
The Dream Philippines Fair is an initiative of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA), a think tank dedicated to the empowerment of the public sector through governance. Learn more about its work by visiting isacenter.org.
This story was originally published in The Manila Times.