CEBU CITY -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo commended Wednesday the achievements of Cebu's Information Technology-business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) sector.

Arroyo was all praises as she visited Cebu as part of her tour of the "Super Regions," which featured various locations of the "Cyber Corridor."

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The corridor is composed of the "strongest potential locations for ICT investments," such as BPOs, software development, animation and game development.

"Wow, it's like we entered a First World!" she exclaimed, upon entering Asiatown I.T. Park.

Arroyo said she was impressed at how developed Cebu has become in terms of its advancements in technology and the BPO sector, noting that Metro Cebu has even outdone India in terms of providing BPO services.

"Cebu City remains a top spot in the Global Services survey on the 'Top 50 Emerging Global Outsourcing Destinations' mainly due to its scale and quality of workforce, modern infrastructure, business catalyst, risk profile, cost and quality of life," said Arroyo, addressing the media, members of the IT and BPO sector and employees of Qualfon Quality Contact Services.

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia joined the President on her tour around the Asiatown I.T. Park. Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña and other officials also graced the affair.

In her speech, Arroyo said she was amazed to see more than 70 outsourcing and off-shoring businesses in Cebu, employing more than 20,000 individuals.

Across the country, there are more than 446,000 IT-BPO workers, from what started with only 2,400 employees in 2000.

Cebu Educational Development Foundation for IT President Bonifacio Belen, in his presentation, said the IT-BPO sector in Cebu has come a long way since 2001.

He noted that in 2001, Cebu had about 850 software developers; by the end of 2009, the number grew to 7,500, raising the number by more than 700 percent.

Cebu is now also offering more than 25,000 IT-enabled services such as BPO services, call centers and multimedia services.

Belen noted that at least 70 percent of Cebu's investments could be found in the IT and IT-enabled services.

"Today, the Philippines, with 90 million people, has challenged India's one billion population for BPO supremacy," Arroyo said.

Compared to the $0.02 billion IT-BPO revenues the country earned in 2001, revenues have risen to a staggering $7.3 billion by 2009.

"And I must congratulate Cebu, because you are one of the centers of excellence," she said.

Belen, for his part, said Cebu has slowly turned into an "Innovation Island," with its strength in the IT industry.

"It is contribution to the Philippine economic growth through technology entrepreneurship... Cebu's next level goal is to become an 'emerged' ICT hub in the global ICT industry," said Belen.

He added that they were looking forward to Cebu becoming an economic zone in order for it to "sustain its economic competitiveness."

Arroyo said the boom of IT and BPO industries in the country was all because of the promotion of strategic investments of digital infrastructure, appropriate policy and legal environments, and the development of human capital.

"To increase the country's share in the global market for off-shoring and outsourcing services, the government intensified the implementation of programs that will train its workforce to enable them to find jobs in the BPO sector, and educate the young on the use of computers and Internet for the next generation of IT-BPO workers," said Arroyo.

To date, more than 4,000 public schools are now connected to the Internet, with 117 schools located in Metro Cebu.

Apart from Cebu, the Cyber Corridor includes Metro Laguna, Metro Cavite, Iloilo, Davao, Bacolod, Metro Pampanga, Metro Bulacan, Cagayan de Oro, Central Bulacan, Lipa and Metro Manila. (EPB/Sun.Star Cebu)