MANILA, JANUARY 1, 2008 (STAR) By Perseus Echeminada - The year that was saw Quezon City join the global information and communication technology (ICT) race, war against global warming, and achieve a budget surplus of over P1 billion.

In the past 12 months, the city under the stewardship of Mayor Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has maintained its status as the richest and the most business friendly city in the country and has become a new ICT destination not only in the country but in the Southeast Asian region.

City treasurer Victor Endriga said as of Nov. 30 last year, the city collected more than P6.9 billion in revenues, posting over P100 million budget surplus.

He said with the city government’s P8.6 billion budget for 2008, which includes its 2007 budget surplus of P1.4 billion, expect more wonderful things to unfold for the city and its people.

Nathan Zulueta, president of the Quezon City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation and ICT consultant to Belmonte, said the city is aligned with the national government and the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry’s goal to capture 10 percent of the global offshoring and outsourcing market by year 2010.

Zulueta said the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP), the umbrella organization of BPO companies in the country, projected the industry to generate $13 billion in revenues and employ close to a million workers by 2010.

Quezon City is now home to 24 PEZA (Philippine Economic Zone Authority) IT parks and zones with more than 70 BPO locators. At the top of the list is Eastwood City in Libis, the country’s first IT Park, with more than 50 locators and with more than $200 million in export revenue last year.

Central business district rises

2007 saw the rise of the city’s Central Business District through a major transformation effort undertaken by the city government. The CBD comprises the East and North Triangle areas along North EDSA and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, which is still being developed as a well-planned, integrated and environmentally-balanced mixed-use development model.

The city government has finalized plans for the development of Park Lane, which will open up the inner CBD areas; and the Mindanao Avenue extenson, which will cut across the CBD to EDSA to lessen traffic gridlocks in the North Avenue-Mindanao Avenue extension.

Among the new developments in the CBD the new Science and Technology Park of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, the Quezon Memorial Circle and a new QC Museum. The transformation of the QMC began with an underpass linking the city hall complex to the QMC.

For the past six years, Belmonte had been giving the lion’s share of the city budget to fund programs to help indigents rise from poverty. Believing that IT-based education is the best weapon against poverty, he has initiated the computerization of the city’s public schools and set up e-mail libraries, internet laboratories and a Center for Educational Excellence.

In mid-2007, the city government fielded Mobile Computer Labs to help students at public schools be computer literate.

The city government is also constructing a four-story SB Center for Excellence at the San Francisco High School grounds in Bago Bantay, Project 6. Once completed it will become the IT center for the nearly 400,000 students from the city’s public elementary and high schools.

The mayor said special science classes and speech laboratories will also be put up in the center for the well-rounded development of the students.

The city government has also completed the construction of 11 additional school buildings with a total of 211 classrooms this year.

In the area of health care, the city government inaugurated two super health centers – the Betty Go-Belmonte super health center in Barangay Holy Spirit and another in Masambon – bringing to 12 the number of the city’s super health centers, complementing the more than 155 health centers scattered all over the city.

The city government has also given the green light for the construction of the P400-million 350-bed Quezon City General Hospital, as well as the development of the Novaliches District Hospital.

Building up a city

Belmonte said that while the city government is building up the city’s competitiveness and attractiveness as a favored site for business and commerce through developing its physical landscape and information highways, “ (we) would not want our people to suffer the pains of traffic gridlocks, water supply shortage, over crowded neighborhoods and clogged drainage systems.”

Quezon City has one of the most comprehensive waste management programs among local government units in the country today. It is the first local government unit to implement a clean development mechanism (CDM) required of countries globally under the Kyoto Protocol.

The city’s CDM will be first of its kind to be registered with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. In February this year, the city government signed a memorandum of agreement with Italian firm Pangea Green Energy for the development and implementation of the first controlled disposal facility to reduce biogas emission.

In a survey of competitive cities in the country and the rest of the world, top businessmen consider linkages and accessibility as among the seven drivers of competitive growth. The city government invested more than P10 billion in infrastructure from 2001 to 2007, nearly P52 percent of which went to road building and repair, paving and widening more than 1,146 kilometers of concreted and asphalted roads. From 2001 to 2007, the city also installed and energized 7000 lampposts to adequately light up major and inner roads.

The city government has also rehabilitated, upgraded and constructed 51 parks all over the city from 2001 to 2007. – With reports from Libeth Abe and Eileen Gatchalian

Agriculture graduates going back to Cagayan farms By Rudy A. Fernandez Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Who says agriculture graduates shy away from working on the farms?

Not those in Nueva Vizcaya, who are leaving their jobs in cities and other centers of population to make use of their expertise in the province’s Malabing Valley, now the “citrus bowl of the Cagayan Valley.”

This “Philippine migration pattern in reverse” has been brought about by Project Malabing Valley started in 1988 under the then Nueva Vizcaya State Institute of Technology (NVSIT), now Nueva Viz­caya State University (NVSU), currently headed by a woman president, Dr. Marilou Santos Gilo-Avon.

Then, the Malabing Valley was a sad picture of underdevelopment, with no roads (thus “unreachable”), no electricity, and no potable water system.

Villagers in the remote barangays of Malabing, Binogawan, Wangal, Capi­saan, Papaya, and Tadji used to spend days on foot to reach the town of Kasibu. Only six-by-six trucks and weapons carriers could traverse the almost impassable river trails.

The presence of government agencies was almost nil except for the Kasibu municipal service agencies.

All this is past, thanks to Project Malabing Valley, which has transformed this domain of the Bugkalot tribe into the “citrus bowl of Caga­yan Valley.”

Since the PMV was started in 1988, several government and non-government agencies have supported research and development (R&D) activities in the valley.

For instance, the PMV supported the establishment of the Malabing Valley Multi-purpose Cooperative (NVMPC) and pushed the development of the citrus industry in the area.

Strategies under AEOP-NVSU included the conduct of barangay development laboratory, creation of people’s organizations or cooperatives, and provision of training to promote potential agricultural commodity pro­jects. In the BDL, an agricultural institution encourages and guides villagers to establish entrepreneurial projects.

Now money virtually grows on fruit trees in the valley, and this is the reason why the younger generations in the region are going back to the farms instead of to the cities.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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