Among Baguio City tourists, comparative advantage isn’t one of them

In a previous article, I mentioned that the bible for urban managers in the country is the National Urban Development and Housing Framework for 2009-2016, which I’ll mention again in this article. But apart from the NUDHF there are several more national policies touching on urban development and its inherent issues, and one could have a migraine perusing them all never mind the heart attack one could have from trying to make sense out of it all. I had actually suffered one, a malaise that is, although I thought myself luckier than student-lawyers who are confronted with a perpetual pile of laws. I don’t know about them but I often ask what’s the use especially when seen against how things are with the current system. I mean, I ought to be focusing on generating wealth for myself, in the amount that, as is the mantra in economics, or the more popular ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ is significant enough to generate more and more wealth. Think Ayalas and Tan, locally, and the multinationals, globally. That way, I could directly influence the system and achieve results quickly instead of through the circuitous backroom work that in the scheme of things may not yield desired results within my lifetime. And to think that they influence the system without having to read or know about the NUDHF and such policies!

Anyway. Where was I? I’m mentioning the NUDHF again here because it mentions urban competitiveness, the ability of an urban region to produce and market a set of products (goods and services) that represent good value (not necessarily lowest price) in relation to comparable products of other regions, as among the core strategies to achieve the national goal of an effective and efficient urban system, which is this article’s subject. In my research methods class, I picked out urban competitiveness as the topic to develop into a research paper (we may or not use it as our thesis paper). I thought of a few others such as an ecosystems-based spatial design of the City wherein its built environment is within a regional system of parks a concept of bioregions (as against the current design which is that the City’s and region’s parklands are mere aesthetic extensions of the built environments hence the corresponding attitude of neglect and degradation and misunderstanding of these green spaces as stand alone or separated from the region’s ecosystem. In essence, physical design matters in changing mental perspectives.), but just to produce an outline for this, I decided, goes beyond six months not to mention having to talk to various disciplinary experts. It’s impractical term-wise but I hope to pursue the study in the future. So time-wise urban competitiveness is the most practical in my list and which I’m quite familiar with having done a brief paper on it in the past semester.

In my review of more literature related to the topic, I realized that this country has hundreds (or is it thousands?) of laws and policies but in many cases an absence of corresponding national or local strategies and action plans, and where strategies and action plans are present there are no corresponding performance systems to measure and show that the laws and policies are being put in practice and to what extent these are bringing about intended results. It is expected that national policies should be integrated in local development plans, which, to be fair, in some cases, is complied with but, because perhaps no one truly understood the policies, superficially or in more definitive terms cutting or copying from the policies and pasting these as they are in the plans. In both cases, what is wanted is, how will locals “do” the policy statement? And how will they know the extent of their doing it? In short, there’s so much talking going on but relatively bereft of doing and what’s worse is these talkers believe their words are gold to the ears of their audiences. Yet even those who are not degree holders could sense something amiss in the talk and I must say their sixth sense is on the right track not due to some super sensory powers perhaps but because they don’t need eyes to see years of inconsistencies. Well, even preschool-aged children intelligently detect when words and tone and words and actions don’t match (which is why I feel I’m an open book in front of my kids which is to say children are not “walang alam”, they appear so because of their physiques but they’re not, inside.). Realizing there is something amiss young children will say “the emperor has no clothes!”, a natural reflex in human survival but they learn the ropes quickly and at some point deflate the reflex altogether whereby the deflation is then called a ‘norm’ and anyone who moves out of that well-guarded norm moves closer and closer to Bagumbayan. But that’s another story.

Here’s the introductory segment of my proposal (I may not be able to do the actual research within the urgent timeframe this is needed but if others would then perfect):

Introduction: National Urban Policy Setting
Cities will account for all net population growth in the world over the next 25 years and the vast majority of economic growth. Over 90% of global urban demographic growth will occur in developing cities. This means the productivity of developing cities will substantially determine the pace and nature of global development. Productive cities will succeed in offering quality of life to the majority of their residents but economically unsuccessful cities will prove ineffective in preventing and alleviating poverty (Webster, Douglas and Muller, Larissa. 2000. Urban Competitiveness Assessment in Developing Country Urban Regions: The Road Forward. World Bank. p.42).
In the Philippines, 27.1% of Filipinos were residing in urban areas in 1950. In the period1960 to 1990, the urban population comprised 50% of the total population of 29 million. In 2005, over 60% of the country’s population were in urban areas. By 2050, it is projected that 84% of Filipinos will be in urban areas. This implies that urbanization has to be properly administered if it is to promote (quality) development (National Urban Development and Housing Framework, 2009-2016).
The Philippine urban development vision, stated in the 2009-2016 National Urban Development and Housing Framework (NUDHF) is of an urban system that (a) facilitates economic production, (b) develops and strengthens local comparative advantages, and (c) provides all urban residents with an improving quality of life[i].
To attain the vision, the Framework outlines three goals and core strategies. One of the strategies is urban competitiveness, as the means to achieve the goal of an effective and efficient urban system.
Urban competitiveness, in the Framework, will be achieved by:
1. Increasing productivity and efficiency of urban industrial regions;
2. Supporting development of strategic clusters, enhancing value added of existing clusters, supporting local promise, orienting development planning, research and data collection of clusters;
3. Increasing attractiveness of Metro Manila as a global service center and destination of visitors;
4. Supporting information technology-enabled services to enhance competitive advantage in the sector; and,
5. Supporting tourism sector and its regional urban-rural linkages.
Statement of the Research Problem
1. Despite the presence of a national strategy for urban competitiveness, there are no competitiveness indicators and baseline data for Baguio City. The City has, within the local governance system, a set of Vision-Mission-Goals and motherhood (sorry mothers, in lieu of a better term) statements in its Development Plan but the local roadmap – operational strategies, evidence-based performance targets – to attain competitiveness are absent. Despite local rhetoric, the City did not figure among the top competitive cities in the country in 2007, the latest national competitiveness survey conducted by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center.
2. Moreover, the statements issued by folks at City Hall regarding the city’s development goals may not, for lack of wide public consultation, represent what the majority have in mind. Also, apart from absence of data on what the majority have in mind it is not known how City residents understand ‘competitiveness’ and whether their understanding is aligned with the definition in the national policy. These realities reflect a traditional hierarchical decision-making process that discounts human capital input, a vital non-negotiable component in the competitiveness equation.
3. More and more, as Baguio City finds itself in the grip of rapid urbanization and its inherent issues, there is local clamor for a “return to its roots” which is none other than a clamor for sustainable and more equitable development. How could development result to competitiveness for the city and at the same time be sustainable?

Objectives of the Research
1. To review the urban competitiveness strategy of Baguio City as currently implemented and define the gaps;
2. To explore the views of City residents (i.e. citizens (disaggregated into adults, young people, and children, by gender, by social contexts), civil society, private sector, government) regarding competitiveness and its local implementation; and,
3. To develop an urban competitiveness index for the City based on results in Objective No. 2.

Literature Reviewed
1. Philippines National Urban Development and Housing Framework 2009-2016.
2. CAR Regional Development Plan 2011-2016.
3. Urban Competitiveness Assessment in Developing Country Urban Regions: The Road Forward. Webster, Douglas and Muller, Larissa. 2000. World Bank.
4. Facing the challenges of sustainable urban growth and the competitiveness of Baguio City. Mendoza, Lorelei C. August 2009. Ti Similia. UP Baguio.
5. Philippine Cities Competitiveness Ranking 2007. Asian Institute of Management Policy Center.

[i] Carried forward from the 1994-2004 NUDHF vision.


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