BANGKOK (VIA PLDT), OCTOBER 22, 2003  (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva  - Information technology firms are eyeing Metro Manila as site for their IT parks after meeting here with President Arroyo and eight mayors of the National Capital Region.

The Metro Manila delegation led by Manila Mayor Joselito Atienza made the announcement yesterday as they joined Mrs. Arroyo in bilateral meetings at the sidelines of the 11th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit here.

Aside from Atienza, eight representatives of the Metro Manila mayors delegation — Quezon City Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Reynaldo Malonzo of Caloocan City, Benhur Abalos of Mandaluyong City, Freddie Tinga of Taguig, Jose Emmanuel Carlos of Valenzuela City, Rosendo Capco of Pateros and Marikina City Mayor Marides Fernando — said many IT giants have expressed their interest in putting IT parks in their respective cities and towns.

Among those who expressed interest in setting up IT parks were the giant software firm Microsoft of the US and Acer computers from Taiwan.

Many of the existing IT parks in the Philippines are located in Laguna, Cavite, Bulacan and nearby provinces outside Metro Manila.

The local chief executives met the top corporate officials and IT executives who earlier met with Mrs. Arroyo and the Philippine delegation during the US-Asean Business Council and Apec Business Advisory Council (ABAC) chaired by presidential senior adviser on international competitiveness Roberto Romulo.

Belmonte said Quezon City, which has a land area a fourth of the total size of Metro Manila, is being eyed as a top choice to host an IT park.

"And Quezon City is host to the biggest educational institutions for such IT education projects because we have the University of the Philippines (UP), Ateneo de Manila and not to mention the fact, we are the country’s entertainment capital with TV stations and communication entities," Belmonte said.

Tinga, for his part, said Taguig also offers a good site for an IT park, pointing out the Fort Bonifacio area that is being developed by the national government.

Tinga admitted, however, the apprehensions by IT executives and foreign investors citing the peace and order situation in the country.

"Generally, the sentiments on peace and order in the Philippines were aired and what better groups to assuage the fears of foreign investors (than) the Metro Manila mayors themselves as chief executives in charge of the peace and order situation in their respective localities," Tinga said.

Atienza, president of the Metro Manila Mayors Council and head of the delegation, also sought to dismiss the apprehensions pointing out bigger cities in the world have more serious crime problems.

"The general question on peace and order primarily was raised because it is a concern of local government units. They (investors) wanted to hear from the mayors the true situation," Atienza said.

"So we told them that the peace and order situation in Metro Manila is good and compared to bigger cities in the world, we are much safer. This assurance by us mayors really helped a lot to squelch such unfounded fears by the foreign investors," he added.

The Metro delegation actively participated in the discussion in the meetings at the APEC sidelines in response to Mrs. Arroyo’s call for them to go "global" in their local governance to promote the interests and the economic well-being of their respective constituencies.

On the other hand, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye, a former mayor of Muntinlupa City, took exceptions to claims by the political opposition that Mrs. Arroyo brought along the mayors as part of her official delegation to promote herself in the 2004 presidential elections.

Bunye said many foreign trips by the President also included local officials and members of Congress in the official delegation.

Before Mrs. Arroyo and the delegation left for Manila following the two-day APEC summit, she expressed her gratitude to the Metro delegation for accepting her invitation and helping the national leadership in promoting the country as an investment destination.

"I aim to strengthen the interface between our local governments and the dynamic horizon of global business and regional governance because the vagaries of political and economic security have an unavoidable impact on the execution of policies at the community and grassroots level," the President said.

"I am also here to try to bring regional trade and investment issues close to the doorstep of strategic local governance," she said. "This is why I have brought with me eight mayors of Metro Manila on this trip."

Mrs. Arroyo introduced each of the mayors to the Filipino community here during her dinner with them Sunday at the Regent Hotel after attending the late afternoon Mass.

"They (mayors) have joined me in important bilateral meetings and they have aired very important views in the interest of their constituencies in the presence of international business leaders and policymakers," she said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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