Batangas’ most ‘competitive:’ Where are they?


For two years running, the National Competitiveness Council (a government-private sector initiative) is piloting a survey on how economically competitive the country’s cities and municipalities are. This is called the Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index, done with the prodding of NCC Chair Guillermo Luz; developed by economist Dr. Alvin Ang of the Ateneo de Manila University; and supported by the Department of Trade and Industry and the United States Agency for International Development.

The spirit of this Index is to check —using locally-available data, and guided by a framework on local economic competitiveness— if local governments are efficient in their delivery of services so as to create a more conducive business climate. The tool developed by NCC has three major categories: economic efficiency (e.g. registered businesses, days to register a business, presence of financial institutions, etc.), government efficiency, and infrastructure. Per major category has a set of indicators (30 all in all) and the data were given corresponding weights—then the LGUs were ranked.

The CMCI was first piloted in 2013 and data were gathered from 122 cities and 163 municipalities. At that time, Luz wished that future editions of this Index will be implemented in all local government units, including low-income municipalities. This year, the number of LGUs surveyed rose to 136 cities and 399 municipalities. Dr. Ang explained that the challenge for the LGU is to have complete data for the NCC’s enumerators to see and assess the level of competitiveness of the LGU.

What NCC also did this year was to give presentable trophies —no cash prizes— to the top LGUs in each of the three categories, and the overall most competitive city and municipality.

For two years in the running, most of the cities reaching the top five are not from Metro Manila (the Philippines’ capital region). For the municipalities, the overall top ten municipalities for 2014 are: 1) Daet, Camarines Norte; 2) General Trias, Cavite; 3) Kalibo, Aklan; 4) Carmona, Cavite; 5) Nabunturan, Compostela Valley; 6) Lubao, Pampanga; 7) Isulan, Sultan Kudarat; 8) Polomolok, South Cotabato; 9) Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon; and 10) Taytay, Rizal.

On the part of cities, the 2014 most competitive cities are are: 1) Makati City; 2) Cagayan de Oro City; 3) Naga City; 4) Davao City; 5) Marikina City; 6) Iloilo City; 7) Cebu City; 8) Manila; 9) Valenzuela City; and 10) Parañaque City. (In the 2013 pilot round, Makati City did not submit complete data and Cagayan de Oro City was the most competitive city.)

Let us look at the CMCI’s rankings by category. Among cities, Naga City topped for government efficiency to only reaffirm its long-time status as the Philippine model for good local governance. Davao City topped the infrastructure category while Parañaque City was tops in economic dynamism. By municipality, those who emerged on top are Tanza, Cavite (economic dynamism), Kalibo, Aklan (government efficiency) and Daet, Camarines Norte (infrastructure).

But where are the Batangas LGUs?

In the 2014 overall ranking for cities, Batangas is ranked 36th, Lipa City 57th and Tanauan City 81st. Among municipalities, the most competitive Batangueño municipality is Bauan (43rd). Resorts-rich Nasugbu only landed 109th. Others who made in the 2014 rankings were Lemery (116th), Sto. Tomas (151st), Balayan (180th) and Calaca (262nd).

These rankings for the Batangas LGUs come as a surprise, especially since Batangas is among the richest LGUs in the country. Sto. Tomas, for example, always emerges as among the top five richest municipalities by income (combining both locally-generated tax and non-tax revenues and internal revenue allotment). But what the CMCI showed that it is not automatic that resources-rich LGUs are among the “most competitive.”

Batangas City is another example. In 2012, USAID made Batangas, Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro cities as project sites for a project called the Investment Enabling Environment (INVEST). USAID helped the said cities improve their business permits and licenses systems, and then these cities develop investment strategies and programs. Cagayan de Oro and Iloilo made the top ten nationwide on the overall most competitive cities. But not Batangas City.

In fact, in 2013, many of the cities and municipalities in Batangas province, including Batangas City, earned less total local incomes, including the major sources of tax revenues: real property taxes and business taxes. Even if Batangas City had already fixed its BPLS processes (to include setting up a one-stop shop service every January), the revenues from local sources were not enough, if the data these LGUs submit to the Bureau of Local Government Finance are to be believed. For a city with a port and where business is the most robust in the province, and which has already received as much technical assistance from donor projects such as INVEST, Batangas City’s performance based on the CMCI is perplexing.

The CMCI provides an objective, data-based analysis of how a local government performs. The aim here, as explained by Luz and Ang, is to have competitive LGUs that will all contribute to the Philippines’ global competitiveness (Global surveys on competitiveness still rank the Philippines below the first 100 nations).

On the overall, local residents will then see if their local governments’ services are efficient and effective; if these happen, then residents will receive the necessary services and trust bestowed unto the local business climate will lead to more enterprises created, more jobs generated, and eventually more local revenues for the LGU.

While CMCI results remind LGUs, such as those in Batangas, of their performances as service providers, eventually the voting public will feel —and then judge— how robust their places are.