Guagua’s winning formula in competitiveness

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Saturday, April 26, 2014


FROM a town always associated with perennial flooding, Guagua is now making a name in the national scene as a rising economy not only in the province of Pampanga, but also in the entire country.

Gone are the days when the town is on the background because now, Guagua is in the limelight as the National Competitiveness Council adjudged it the second most competitive municipality in the Philippines for 2013.

But like any other success stories, it is not a smooth sail. There are many challenges that are met along the way and many stories unfold as the journey goes on.

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Looking Back

The quest of Guagua to be in the roster of the 2013 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index (CMCI) started by submitting reports to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in the spirit of transparency.

"Since we want to improve our collection, we conducted tax mapping and in less than three months, we have identified 1,000 unregistered taxpayers," Mayor Dante Torres shared.

Being able to identify these unregistered taxpayers and impose the necessary sanctions and penalties to them, the local government was able to raise its revenues and at the same time facilitate the work of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).

At first, the local chief executive said that they had a difficulty dealing with the taxpayers. But by having dialogues and explaining to them where the taxes will go, they were able to convince taxpayers to pay their taxes right. With the increase in revenue and other assistances and funds from the provincial government and various agencies, the local government has started laying down programs and projects to better the situation of Guaguaenos.

Translating Dreams to Reality

Having a little amount from the revenues they have collected to begin with, the mayor started organizing different councils mandated to develop various areas of good governance. Among these is the Local Development Council, which is multi-sectoral so that every sector of the society is well represented in the development process.

The local chief executive said that among his priorities is the revival of culture and human development in the town.

“I am planning to organize a festival featuring the products of each barangay so that aside from being well-known across other places, small scale entrepreneurs also have the opportunity to grow their businesses and have sustainable livelihood,” he explained.

He also shared his ambition to spearhead activities in the plaza every Sunday in order for the people to have fun and feel more comfortable with one another. Among the activities he thinks possible are bingo games for the elderly and performances by local talents.

“Everybody wants to participate but they don’t know how to do it. By being comfortable with one another and simply having fun, people will start to do something which will translate into their collective action”, the mayor believes.

Torres is also a primary advocate of environmental protection. An evidence of this is the establishment of the Bantay Ilog Task Force under his term, which aims to raise people’s awareness on garbage and the importance of river systems.

“Aside from this, we also grouped the marginalized fishermen and assign them to clean the rivers. Once this task is done, we will provide them their own fingerlings and nets so they can utilize these bodies of water as their fishponds. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone wherein we get to clean the environment and at the same time give the people a source of livelihood,” he furthered.

Alongside these efforts are continuous developments in infrastructure, enhancements in education as well as grants and scholarships; and medical assistance especially to far-flung areas or the “Pangulo” area.

Enumerating all the projects of the local government may consume a lot of space but they only prove that Guagua deserves to be recognized as it is now by the NCC. The said recognition is probably one of the town’s greatest achievements so far, but do you know that there are many other accomplishments of Guagua that were recognized by various agencies? In fact, it is now embarking on a new journey towards attaining the Seal of Good Governance.

Level Playing Field

One of the most significant aspects of the town’s success lies on the attitude of its local government towards success itself, as well as towards its people. From the first day of his assumption as the local chief executive, Mayor Dante Torres possesses an optimistic outlook and high hopes in the capability of his constituents to work together for the betterment of the town.

“When we won the award, I was overjoyed. Actually, when people congratulate me, I always say that it is not I who won it. Rather, the people have earned it for themselves because of their desire for change”, Torres said.

In fact, there are many challenges along Guagua’s journey before getting this distinction. As a neophyte in politics, the mayor has a lot to learn to be able to run the town well.

“Being new in this field, and coming from the corporate world, I have to make a lot of adjustments. If you try to think of it, it might seem difficult to accomplish things for Guagua. My answer to that is it’s just a matter of political will. Now, despite the limited resources we have, we still managed. There are still a lot of people who do not seem to care about the government, but I’ll try to show them that the government cares for them and is after their welfare,” the local chief executive committed.

Moving Forward

This award definitely seems a good jumpstart for Guagua to continuously aim for development and translate that desire into action. Like a father who wants only the best for his children, the local government has already laid its course of action for the next few years in order to benefit everyone, especially those who belong to the marginalized sector of the society. As the mayor revealed, they are in full gear towards developing Guagua as the new economic hub of Pampanga.

“It might be a hard and slow process, but we will work together. And in the process of working together, I am not expecting for awards or recognition. I only expect that something will happen. I expect for positive results,” Torres concluded. (CLJD and MJLS/PIA 3)

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on April 27, 2014.

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