The new year is a start of a new decade and 2020 has nice ring to it. 20/20 stands for normal visual acuity or the clarity or sharpness of vision measured at a distance of 20 feet. According to the American Optometric Society, having 20/20 vision does not necessarily mean you have perfect vision. 20/20 vision only indicates the sharpness or clarity of vision at a distance. Yet a vision that spans the current year is good enough. With the very fast pace technology is moving and disrupting how we do things, even just a ten-year plan would be good enough for any visionary leader to nurture. I dream of a Vision 2020 or a list of ten items I wish to see for Bacolod and Negros Occidental.
First, a fully integrated waste facility complex that completely supports the “zero-waste” aspiration of our laws. It shall have waste-to-energy or waste conversion technologies that reduce waste products and convert them instead to useful items. I wish to see a “mall-like” buyback center that transforms scavengers to waste sorters and allow them decent income and creates a conducive ecosystem for the city’s landfill, recyclers, and corporate waste program managers, especially those producing large volume of waste or hazardous waste, to work together to reduce waste and lower waste collection budget of the city and allow us to fully comply with laws on solid waste management. This can only happen when we understand that we, myself included, are all committing a crime against our environment and future generations if we continue to tolerate the concept of a “dumpsite” which is already unlawful since 2005.
Second, a comprehensive business environment solution that consolidates all transactions with the city government as well as national government agencies operating in the city compliant to the prescribed periods under the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Law, especially the issuance of business permits and other licenses. The system must migrate almost all transactions to digital and approximate “zero-contact” policy to drastically reduce graft and corrupt practices. This would entail using a variety of payment gateways to afford end-users and consumers the option of paying digitally. I dream to see the salient features of the Republic No. 11032 under a highly disseminated and understood revised Citizen’s Charter that operates as a source of right for citizens to hold the local government accountable for non-compliance as the law envisions. This development although now mandatory can only happen with an enlightened citizenry that understands that “red tape” is not at all excusable.
Third, an integrated smart city system that encourages and puts in place full and active citizens engagement in all concerns such as traffic, street lighting, job and investments, healthcare and environment. This happens when government is “open” to hear crowd-sourced solutions just like what I learned in Taiwan and other countries practicing open government. Barangays need to be at the forefront in assisting the city to achieve its targets with the use of both barangay and city resources. I envision a city that actively assists barangays to raise revenues so it can sufficiently attend to its own concerns, such as in peace and order, transportation, health care and other social services.
Fourth, the opening of new tourism niche markets for the city beyond just the promotion of the annual Masskara Festival but also leveraging on the latter. The festival mentality is ideal only when there are key performance indicators such as specific increase in the number of foreign and local visitors, sustained increase in sales of local products (aside from China-made), higher income for local establishment owners and small and medium enterprises and more awareness of business potential of the city. This initiative would not easily happen without a holistic approach on the part of all local government units in Negros Occidental including Bacolod and the provincial government. The key word today is collaboration rather than competition
Fifth, business data and analytics that will create a more intelligent business ecosystem to elicit the full trust and confidence of potential investors. There are so many areas we can open up both for public and private investments. I am looking at state-of-the-art logistics, incubation, design and packaging centers for small and medium enterprises. The Tatak Pinoy vision of Senator Sonny Angara currently puts an emphasis on helping support Filipino products and promoting the Filipino brand. I will write more about this policy support in future columns.
Sixth, a 24/7 security and safety program to ensure peace and order in the city. I have seen samples of command centers designed by big information technology (IT) companies over the years but we do not really need to spend much to achieve a safe and peaceful community. We need to create intelligent systems that will allow citizens to help and prevent criminalities in the city. In some hackathons I have witnessed, young kids design mobile-based systems to help in law enforcement and even in rescue operations. If we can tap our startup community, we will surely have a lot of ideas to use.
Seventh, a long-term plan to ensure sustainable and potable water supply for our city that requires the cooperation of other local government units. Total privatization of water operations is definitely not an option. Supply and other parts of operation that do not deprive the people of controlling natural resources can be outsourced to conscientious and square-dealing private companies but to privatize the whole water management is not ideal, and simply an easy way out for leaders with tunnel vision.
Eighth, concrete sectoral engagement for major sectors such as the out-of-school-youth (OSYs), senior citizens and retirees and persons with disabilities (PWD) especially in empowering them to seek and implement solutions on their own for their respective concerns and needs. Some examples are specialized career centers for PWDs and OSYs, health and wellness centers for senior citizens and retirees.
Ninth, a holistic set of programs to build and promote Bacolod as a City of the Arts and support the creative economy. The United Nations has proclaimed 2020 as the Year of the Creative Economy for Sustainable Development. The Department of Trade and Industry in collaboration with stakeholders have forged a creative roadmap for the Philippines which envisions that “by 2030, the Philippines will be the number one Creative Economy in ASEAN in terms of size and value of our creative industries, as well as the competitiveness and attractiveness of our creative talent and content in international markets.” The scope includes six cultural domains, namely: cultural and natural heritage; performance and celebration; visual arts and artisan products; books and press; audio-visual, broadcast and interactive media; and creative services. Other related domains include tourism, and sports and recreation. Bacolod and Negros Occidental need to be part of this.
Tenth, an intensive talent development and skills training program for Bacolod and Negros Occidental. I have always been a federalist since college and therefore today, I still wish we can run our own innovative programs as a separate island from the Philippines if it is just too hard to get the buy in of our national government. There are at least two things I would like to see happen- if not in this country but in the city at least. First, just like the European model, a digital competence citizen framework that creates a comprehensive standard for all citizens in the city to gauge their digital skills and knowledge according to their respective levels so that it becomes easier to design and develop training efforts to skill, upskill and re-skill Bacolodnons. Second, a quality apprenticeship program patterned after other countries, where graduates are able to expose themselves to one to four years of remunerated training work to learn the necessary skills and earn the relevant certifications specifically denominating those acquired skills.
Happy new year to all!
NOTE: This article is a consolidation of two columns under DISRUPTIVE MODE printed over Sunstar Bacolod for the last two weeks of December 2019.