Fostering Baguio’s Tourism Development through the Panagbenga Flower Festival-A A +A
Monday, September 16, 2013
THE staging of festivals and events all over the world is a testament of their significant role in tourism development. Festivals and events anchor an increased demand for tourism which is essentially a major contributor to local government revenues through business taxes and contributes to tourism arrivals, employment and business generation, community involvement and development and has an aggregate impact on the local economy and the stakeholders. The festival as a media event expends city’s image and also creates a window for positive public relations through positive media coverage that emphasize the unique cultural facets of Baguio. While the destination is always available, having a time-limited event encourage visitors to take advantage of this opportunity and visit Baguio in a season of bloom. During the Panagbenga, visitors have a unique chance to interact with the local community. The Panagbenga Flower Festival reinforces the image of Baguio as a prime destination in the country and permanently mark itself on the tourism map through the hosting of various events and activities.
Managing major festivals like the Panagbenga, is a huge management, logistical and financial challenge. Like all events, it entails funding and subsidy. Generating quality events like the Panagbenga Flower Festival entail private, public and local government partnership. Staging Panagbenga entails costs—expenses for mobilization, events, organization, coordination, marketing and promotion, safety and security, crowd control management—the list goes on. Festival management is no small feat. Successful festivals and events entail funding and fund raising strategies. The Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. composed of the private and local government sector and other stakeholders, must work hand in hand, to ensure that Baguio’s own Panagbenga Festival carries on its time-honoured tradition of hosting and staging quality events for the City, making tourism development a reality, and a sustainable one at that. Any local government unit who fails to understand the role of their own festival to tourism, to the community and to various stakeholders is bound for epic failure.
We were given the privilege and responsibility to manage the event in 2007. We did not ask for it. Prior to our appointment as Chair of the Executive Committee with my partner and Co-Chair, Freddie Alquiros, previous organizations or offices have handled the event. It was handled by the original founders of the Festival and at one point, two local executives during their term attempted to run the event too.
However, after being elected as Board of Trustee of the Foundation and then appointed as Chair of the EXCOM, there were several things we need to fix. Firstly, we need to ensure proper budgeting of the event.
Second, procedure for disbursement, liquidation, internal and external audit of the Financial Statement, review of the Board of Trustees of its Financial operations and its viability, timely report to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the submission of its Financial report, General Information Sheet and submission of another report for the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Finally, the bottom-line is to ensure Proper Corporate Governance in the same manner we operate and manage our corporations. Mind you, none of this was done in the past. It is true that the local government of Baguio participates in the staging of the Panagbenga by handling the awards and prizes for some events of the festival. As an example, the 4 million pesos allocated by the LGU for 2012 were allotted and were disbursed DIRECTLY by the City Government to participants/recipients under these government-sanctioned and initiated events as reported by associated press as follows: subsidy for street sweepers - P100,000; Panagbenga Taekwondo – P25,000; Fun Run – P50,000; Music Festival – P250,000; Pony Boys’ day – P300,000; Scrabble tournament – P30,000; Mr. Panagbenga – P80,000; dart tournament – P50,000; E Carta productions – P75,000. Prizes for the drum and lyre competition was apportioned P720,000 with P130,000 for the first prize, P110,000 for the second prize and P90,000 for the third prize. Thirteen non-winning schools were given P30,000 each.
Prizes for the street dancing open category was given P870,000; with P280,000 for the first prize, P200,000 for the second prize, P150,000 for the third prize; and eight groups given P30,000 each. The landscaping – flower arrangement contests had P24,000 each for the elementary and high school divisions. The barangay clean and green contest had P235,000, while the fluvial parade gave out P260,000 and the media competition prizes amount to P242,000. The carpet of flowers landscaping contests had P95,000 for the first to third prizes, while the five honorable mentions had P75,000 divided among them. The vertical landscaping contests gave out P170,000 for first to third and honorable mentions, same as that of the carpet of flowers competition.
Prizes for the open category landscaping contest, P180,000 was given to the first, second and third prizes while P25,000 each was given to 5 honorable mention. Entertainment also amounted to P20,000; for a whole total of P4M as the city’s subsidy. The role of the Foundation is to merely RECOMMEND how the fund is to be distributed to the participants.
We do not RECEIVE the fund, we do not HANDLE the fund, we do not DISBURSE the fund, and therefore, we do not LIQUIDATE the fund. All these tasks are taken-cared of by the respective offices of City Hall.
The submitted Audited Financial statement given by the Foundation was out of goodwill long before they even required us to do so. It is already detailed and audited by the External auditor. What they fail to realize, and maybe accept, is that the City does not really provide P4 million to the Flower Festival. To state that this is so is entirely misleading. Of the P4 million the City Government provides for the festival events and participants, the 2m really comes from the funds from the office of the Congressman. So in fact, the local government only really provides P2 million. The Foundation through its activities pays the City Government in terms of permits and taxes in the amount ranging from P1.5 to P1.6 million. Was this mentioned in any of the reports provided to media? Or was this ever brought to light by some columnists who think they know it all? Before we came to the picture, the Foundation through its EXCOM handled the government funds directly. As far as Freddie and I are concerned, we do not want to touch that with a ten foot pole.
Even if we are scrounging for sponsors to help run and bank roll some of the events of the Festival, the big telecom companies for the past years since we took over, only provides us P1 million each. That's P2 million. Do you know how much each gave in the last Panagbenga of 2013? It was P500,000 each! Be that as it may, all these funds generated from sponsorship are accounted for and reported to the Board of Trustees of BFFFI, to the Internal and External Auditor, SEC and BIR. You know how much in the past these telecom giants were giving the Festival in 2005 or 2006? One telecom company gave them a whopping P7 million! And this was NOT the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation, Inc. running the event, mind you. This was a different group who tried handling the festival for the city. This was just one telecom company! And to reward themselves and the solicitor of sponsors for the “hard work”, they entitled themselves with commissions! There lies the difference! When we run this event, it is as volunteers. We love what we do for we are in the service industry. No remuneration, no honorariums or commissions, etc. You know why? Because the Flower Festival is NOT our livelihood! We have our own jobs that provide us what we and our family needs. We are volunteers. Unlike those who tried in the past-the festival was THEIR ONLY SOURCE OF INCOME! So before you start dropping big words like "transparency and accountability" please ensure that you are not a party to any allegations of wrong doing. It is difficult to be sanctimonious when you have no credibility. As far as the past Events of the Festival are concerned-where now your reports to SEC? To BIR? Where is the AUDITED Financial Statement? Where are those so-called detailed reports?
Expenses by the Baguio Flower Festival Foundation to administer and stage the festival for events under its purview like the Launching and opening of the Panagbenga, the Grand Float Parade, the Street Dancing Competition, Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom, Handog ng Panagbenga sa Pamilyang Baguio, the Closing Ceremonies and the Grand Fireworks Display and other entertainment, come from corporate sponsorships and donations from the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio. The prizes for drum and lyre, street dancing competitions and other events not mentioned are handled and directly paid by the City government. The commitment of the office of the Congressman through his PDAF is not handed directly to the foundation. The City for its counterpart, handles the following events for the community, but the disbursement process is done through the City government: Fun Run, Taekwando, Mr. Panagbenga, Pony Boys Day, and Music festival, scrabble and dart tournament. The city does the disbursement for the prizes for the drum and lyre competition, street dancing competition, the landscaping competition and other expenses.
The audited financial statement submitted by the BFFFI to the SEC has always been and is readily available with or without the City Council resolution. This is a requirement submitted to SEC that is complied with by legitimate and registered businesses and organizations and is made available to the public. The SEC i-View is an online system that allows the general public, other government and private entities to view and print company reports for a fee. All that they had to do was request for it. All public funds are subject to accountability and information how our government spends taxpayers’ money must be available. Maybe for the interest of public knowledge and transparency, the Tourism office of Baguio should also publish their accomplishments, what and how they spent the local tourism budget so that the public and the tourism sector and other stakeholders are also aware of their contributions to Baguio’s tourism development and promotions. The suggestion for the increase in allocation is very much welcome since this event is a partnership between the private sector and government.
If they choose to hold back their allocations and commitments to the events the government handles, by all means you can do so. Remember, it is your funds that pay for the CLEANEST AND GREENEST BARANGAY, THE MEDIA COMPETITION, THE PONY BOY’S DAY, ETC. So if you want to hold back on those, be the one to explain it to them. I cannot find the rationale why they are contemplating on scrapping or reducing the allocation for the prizes for major competitions in the Panagbenga and the budget for other events like barangay contests, tournaments and other events under their direct control. Will public schools and other contingents be interested to participate or join the festival and spend on a non-competing/unsubsidized events? Will they continue to join if the subsidy for prizes were cut or disallowed? Can you imagine a major festival like Panagbenga becoming successful without local government obligation? Festival economics is not a subject for everyone but necessary for better decision making. It is just not possible for local governments to reap all the benefits of festivals without the costs and participation. Do not take political pot shots at us for cheap political points at our expense. We can read that a mile away.
Little or no information is dangerous.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 17, 2013.