Editor's Note: This economic development success story was a result of workshops organized as part of the Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) program, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). ICMA is the primary implementing partner.
The Bohol Provincial Government, the Tagbilaran City Government, and the Bohol Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) entered into a tripartite partnership to formalize their commitment to pursuing inclusive growth. Recognizing the need for a solid “one voice for one destination” vision in promoting investments, the partnership is anchored on a unified and enhanced investment promotions program for Bohol and Tagbilaran City.
“The government must work with the business sector, civil society, and other stakeholders to achieve sustainable development,” said Bohol Governor Edgardo Chatto.
“The private sector is an important driver of growth,” he added. “As the province prepares for the influx of more tourists and businesses with the opening of the new international airport in Panglao in 2018 and the completion of infrastructure projects in Tagbilaran City, the more we need to synchronize our efforts to reach our potential as an economic growth hub in the region.”
The partnership was the result of a series of workshops on investment promotion organized by the U.S. Embassy Manila’s U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) Project, in Tagbilaran City. The BCCI will take the lead in aggressive investment promotions for the province and Tagbilaran City, drawing foreign direct investments that can bring in more jobs and revenues. Governor Chatto will issue an Executive Order to create the Tripartite Technical Working Group.
“The tripartite partnership signifies the public and private sectors’ commitment to building a mutually beneficial economic relationship that will help generate more jobs and wealth and ultimately uplift the lives of citizens,” said Jeffrey Lehrer, Director of the USAID/Philippines Office of Economic Development and Governance.
Tourism and investments
Tourism continues to be the competitive advantage of Bohol, given its status as one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines. Tourism played a crucial role in the recovery of the province after an earthquake and a typhoon in 2013.
While the consecutive calamities caused a sharp drop in tourist arrivals, the province, with the support of international donors, invested heavily in its tourism recovery program, Visit Bohol 2015. As part of the project, Tagbilaran City allotted PhP15 million (US$308,412) for the construction of the Bohol Friendship Park, which is designed to become a major tourist attraction in the city. According to the Department of Tourism, the number of travelers to Bohol nearly doubled from 356,370 in 2012 to 602,257 in 2015. Governor Chatto expects to attract 1.7 million tourists a year when the new international airport opens in 2018.
According to the National Competitiveness Council’s rankings in 2016, the province’s competitiveness increased by 18 places among the country’s 74 provinces, advancing from a rank of 54th in 2015 to 36th. Meanwhile, Tagbilaran City’s competitiveness increased by 9 places, from 34 th to 25th among the 110 cities in the country.
Tagbilaran City Government identified tourism development, revitalization of information and communications technology (ICT), and a rationalized infrastructure program as the priority areas for development in the next three years.
“Various infrastructure projects are already in the pipeline and we are optimistic these initiatives will bring in significant contributions to what we have today—specifically, attracting investments that will eventually generate more jobs in the city,” said Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell “Baba” Yap.
Strategic directions for investment promotion
The tripartite partnership will revise the enhanced Bohol Investment and Promotion Center’s two-pronged strategic direction to support business registration and micro, small, and medium enterprise development, and at the same time attract big investors. It will also strengthen the capacity of the center through learning exposures in international investment promotions conferences and destinations. This alliance will work toward establishing an Investment Promotions Center to be led by the private sector, supported by the government, and registered with the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission.
“We believe in the province and city’s economic growth prospects, and the business sector intends to bring it to greater heights. The province and the city have various investment opportunities to offer and we just need to set the stage for more investments to come in,” said Marietta Gasatan, Vice President for External Affairs of BCCI.
“I commend the involved partners for coming together to plan for Tagbilaran City and Bohol’s future investment direction. USAID is committed to support the province and the city in improving its business environment, which will gradually contribute to deepening the Philippines’ competitive efforts globally and locally,” said Lehrer.
Tagbilaran City is one of USAID’s six partner cities under the Cities Development Initiative (CDI). The SURGE Project, the CDI’s flagship activity, is developing conditions for broad-based, inclusive, and resilient economic growth in the six cities, and will soon expand to cover additional cities.
SURGE supported the Tagbilaran City Government in updating its Comprehensive Land Use Plan to integrate climate change adaptation, gender equality, and social inclusion. It also facilitated the expansion of the inter-municipal alliance, the Panglao Island Executive Council, into the Panglao Island and Tagbilaran Executive Committee (PITEC). The PITEC, represented by local government heads from the province and the cities of Tagbilaran, Dauis, and Panglao, is addressing common concerns in urbanization and in managing the impacts of the construction and operation of the new international airport. A provincial ordinance will be issued to institutionalize the PITEC.
Moreover, the SURGE Project and the local government are developing an action plan to streamline the business registration process to three steps to improve the city’s business enabling environment.