2020 Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit (LGU) and COVID 19: City of Santa Rosa, Philippines

For several consecutive years, the City of Santa Rosa has always been a Finalist in the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (PCCI) Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit (LGU) City Level 2 (1st Class to 2nd Class). I’ve attended several Awarding Ceremonies watching other cities receive the award. This year, the City finally bagged the award! – 2020 PCCI’s Most Business-Friendly LGU City Level 2 Category!!

As the City Planning and Development Coordinator (City Director) of the City of Santa Rosa, I am trying to reflect and explain in my own lens why the City won the award this year and only became finalists in the previous years.

The PCCI is a non-government business organization in the Philippines. It is composed of small, medium, and large enterprises, local chambers and industry associations representing various sectors of business. The objective of PCCI is to foster a healthier Philippine economy and improve the viability of business in the community. According to their webpage “PCCI is recognized as the “sole official representative and voice of entire private business community” by virtue of Letter of Instruction No. 780 signed by then President Ferdinand Marcos”. Part of their programs is their Yearly Search and Recognition of Most Business-Friendly Local Government Unit (LGU). There are three levels for the competition: Provinces, Cities, and Municipalities. City of Santa Rosa belongs to the City Level 2 (1st Class to 2nd Class Cities).

In the past years, the PCCI Nomination Entry Form/Criteria is consists of four parts as follows:
LGU Profile and Fund Source (Internal Revenue Allotment and Locally Sourced Income)
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as number of registered enterprises, new businesses registered and renewals, total investment generated by new business registrants, Real Property units classified as commercial units, commercial building permits issued, LGU Employees, banks, and micro financing institutions. Other KPIs like Power rate per kilowatt, unemployment and underemployment rate, poverty and crime rate incidence, and presence of local chamber/other business organizations were also included.
Qualifying Indicators such as presence of previous year’s Seal of Good Local Governance (SGLG) from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), appointment of Local Economic Investments Promotions Officer (LEIPO), local ecological profile, incentive code, Comprehensive Land Use Plan (CLUP), Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP), and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) code or ordinance.
Essential Indicators are for me the most important part of the four criteria. These are series of qualitative questions. The questions are: What are the challenges that affect local economic development in your city / municipality that impedes your ability to achieve the Vision and Mission of your LGU? What are you doing to address these challenges and what are the positive impact of these initiatives?; What are your initiatives to make it easy to do business in your LGU? What are your efforts to comply with the provisions of Ease of Doing Business (EODB)? Are you using the simplified registration form?; How does the LGU attract local and foreign investors to the city / municipality?; and How can the LGU promote competitiveness? What are your programs and the positive result/s of these initiatives?

It is already an accomplishment to belong as one of the Finalists in the PCCI program. However, as a Progressive City with a Progressive Mayor, we do not only want to become a finalist, we want to win and bring pride and honor to our City.

2020 is different. COVID 19 and the Pandemic happened. Everybody was affected. Governments, Businesses, Communities, and down to households and individuals were impacted by the Pandemic. Quarantines and Lockdowns were implemented. People stayed at home and waited for the support from the Government. Public Transport System was suspended. Public Health and Livelihood were at risk. Children stopped schooling early. Majority of Businesses and Companies halted their operation.

This is where the Leaders of the City of Santa Rosa stepped up. When the National Government declared a State of Emergency, the City Mayor – Arlene B. Arcillas called for an immediate Strategic Planning activity. Department heads and component Barangay Captains (lower LGUs) were consulted and a set of activities were drafted as an output. While other LGUs are immediately taking aggressive actions, the City first checked its resources and developed an implementable and sustainable plan of actions and activities as well as local resolutions and ordinances that are needed in this time of crisis. This resulted to a more impactful, effective, and sustainable support to its constituents.

The 2020 PCCI Nomination Entry Form/Criteria includes the previous year’s criteria with additional questions about the City’s response to Covid 19. There are two major questions included in the nomination this year as follows: What are the three (3) current major challenges affecting the recovery, maintenance and promotion of businesses in your LGU/area of responsibility?; and What are the response of the LGU to these Challenges?

The Planning Office with the inputs of several City Departments prepared the nomination and organized the many COVID 19 challenges into three categories: 1. Decrease in Economic Activities / Workforce Concerns and Suspended Operation of Businesses due to Quarantine (For Non-essentials); 2. Operations and Supply Chain during Quarantine; and 3. Crisis Management and General Public Health Issue.

The City Business Processing and Licenses Office (BPLO) led by Ms. Olivia Laurel developed an online registration system using current available and open technologies to ensure efficient and safe (health) transaction in business registration and renewal as a response to the Pandemic. The City did not pay for expensive software and system to implement the Business Quick Registration (QR) project of the City.

The City submitted its nomination on September 15, 2020. On September 22, 2020, the City was chosen to advance to the Final Judging on September 29, 2020. The Final Judging was conducted on-line platform. The LGU presented a 5-minute audio-visual presentation and a 10-minute Questions and Answer with the panel. On September 29, 2020, City Mayor Arlene B. Arcillas along with the City Planning team waited for the city’s panel interview turn in the City Mayor’s Office. Mayor Arcillas answered all the questions excellently specially the Covid-related programs questions.

On October 8, 2020, in the second day of the 46th Philippine Business Conference & Expo, the City of Santa Rosa was awarded the 2020 PCCI’s Most Business-Friendly LGU City Level 2 Category.

So what’s in it for the city? Aside from the bragging rights of the city, it proved that the cities and local government units are frontliners in the fight against COVID-19 and in bouncing back better (forward) toward a resilient future. It showed the importance of the role of the LGUs in maintaining security and promoting public health in the business sector. It showed the interdependency of city programs and why it is important to businesses. It displayed the risk of businesses and the general population to crisis such as the pandemic. The City also exemplified the strong partnership between the business sector and the city government in managing this crisis. It means that it is safe and wise to put your investment and businesses in the City of Santa Rosa.

Congratulations City of Santa Rosa, Laguna, Philippines!

*picture courtesy of City Government of Santa Rosa, Laguna FB Page

To Learn more about PCCI check this link: https://www.philippinechamber.com/

Author: cityplanningcoordinator

A city planning and development coordinator (City Department Head) in a medium-size fast urbanizing city in the Philippines. A certified US Planner, a Philippine licensed Environmental Planner, and a Project Management Professional (PMP).

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