Effective, modernizing and vibrant local governments are crucial to sustainable national development, Horacio “Boy” Morales, president of private think tank La Liga Policy Institute (La Liga) said on Thursday.
As such, it is important to empower local governments to effectively play its crucial role as centers of partnerships for local economic development to accelerate growth and development at the national level, Morales stressed.
Speaking before participants of the forum PPP 101: A Forum on Public-Private Partnerships for City Governments at the Century Park Hotel on Thursday, Morales said reforms planned at the national government must not only have the participation and support of LGUs, but for LGUs to be able to translate and operationalize such thrusts at the local level.
The event gathered more than 100 participants, including local chief executives, local legislators, city and municipal development planners, officials and representatives of key national line agencies and leaders of various citizens’ groups.
British Ambassador Stephen Lillie along with Mr. Edward Farhugarson and Mr. James Ballingall of the Infrastructure United Kingdom of Her Majesty’s Treasury, National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Cayetano Paderangga and officials of League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) led by its president, San Fernando, Pampanga Mayor Oscar Rodriguez were among the guests of honor.
LCP participants were largely members of its national executive board, representing so-called “growth centers” in the country. On the otherhand, municipal local chief executives who attended the forum were, Ramon Ilagan of Cainta , Marcelo Navarro off Bani, Noel Nakar of Dasol, Jean dela Fuente of Samal, and administrators and planning officers from Sual, Mabini, Burgos , Infanta, San Mateo and Montalban.
“LGUs are at the frontline of the overall development challenge. It is at this level where services and program interventions matters most,” he stressed.
Morales said while local economic development, however, is easier said than done.
In fact, he lamented that many nationally-driven programs that were committed years ago, such as the Philippine Agenda 21, the Millennium Development Goals and other anti-poverty initiatives, have yet to be fully realized at the LGU level.
“There are more poor and excluded Filipinos today than in the year 2000. They live in rural communities far from Manila, many of them women, farmers, fisherfolks, upland communities, informal settlers, Muslims, Indigenous Peoples and tribal Filipinos. Worse, there are some who have moved out of poverty only to slide back again,” he said.
According to Morales, the task of pursuing equitable growth is the challenge for public-private partnerships for local economic development.
PPPs, he said, must complement the capacity of local governments to undertake basic infrastructure, such as public markets, terminals, ports, airports, water distribution facilities; and services, such as health and education, including even local governance systems such as local tax mapping, baseline information and database, permits and licensing.
“All these are required if not demanded from them by their constituencies - of course in manner that is equally beneficial to both the public and private sector as well as to the citizenry,” he stressed.
In fact, the role of PPP’s in local economic development has been articulated within the Local Government Code.
Local governments are actually empowered with a corporate mandate. The full potential of exercising this corporate mandate of local governments to drive local economic development has not been fully explored, Morales pointed out.
Partnerships, hence, should be adopted strategically, utilizing the cluster approach so that cities will become radiation centers for equitable growth and sustainable development, he said, citing the initiatives of La Liga in partnering with various LGU alliances such as the One Pangasinan Alliance of LGUs in Western Pangasinan, and the Alliance of Seven LGUs in the eastern part of Metro Manila and Rizal.
An economic alliance, OPAL is composed of Bani, Burgos, Dasol, Mabini, Infanta, Sual and Alaminos City, which initiated partnership around sustainable agriculture, natural resources management and eco-tourism, with the end view of spurring economic activities and laying the groundwork for a healthy investment climate in Western Pangasinan.
On the other hand, RESILIENCE, a consortium of NGOs of which La Liga is a part of, is also working with the Alliance of Seven or A7 - a partnership initiative toward integration of disaster risk reduction and management in local plans and programs among cities and municipalities badly hit by Typhoon Ondoy.
La Liga is also working on a region-wide partnership to accelerate the achievement of MDG targets that are at risk of not being met. This partnership initiative is being worked out with the eight cities of Region 1, the LCP and relevant regional line agencies.
According to Morales, PPP has opened up a whole range of opportunities both at the national and local government level to address the many pressing needs of the country and what needs to be done is to enable LGUs to boost and sustain development at the national level.
After the forum, LCP and La Liga agreed to jointly work together to create and make accessible relevant data highlighting the economic and investment profile of various city governments nationwide.
Roland Cabigas, managing director of La Liga said the result such undertaking will be presented by LCP during its annual convention in November, to serve as guide to bilateral agencies and other international financing institutions, and potential private sector partners as a way of promoting Philippine cities as investment haven through PPPs. (La Liga Policy Institute)