THE Philippines with 90 million people has challenged India's one billion population for BPO (business process outsourcing) supremacy, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said.

Compared to $.02 billion in 2001, the country's BPO industry earned $7.3 billion in 2009, the President, who was here in the city as part of her weeklong cyber tour nationwide, said.

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The weeklong cyber tour started Friday last week in Angeles City.

The Teleperformance Phils., a call center beside Luxur Place hosted the President's visit with at least 200 present coming from the stakeholders, professors and students from the city's universities and colleges, public officials from Bacolod and the province of Negros Occidental.

Present were host Mayor Evelio Leonardia, Governor Isidro Zayco, Representative Monico Puentevella, former Deputy Presidential Assistant and Undersecretary Anthony Golez, among others.

In her message, the President cited that the government has created 500,000 jobs in ICT "as part of the legacy I will leave, a legacy of hardwork, a strong and stable economy, renewed global engagement, major investments in healthcare and education, and dramatic improvements in physical infrastructure like the Bacolod-Silay Road, the Bacolod Airport irrigation, and the Roro (roll-on, roll-off) ports."

The President added: "Much work remains to be done, but I am determined to turn over to a new government a new Philippines ready for the challenge of bringing the nation to the verge of first world in 20 years."

Future sites

Four major information technology (IT) sites are scheduled to rise in Negros Occidental with the support extended by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the industry, said Councilor Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, president of the Bacolod-Negros Occidental National Federation of Information Technology.

Batapa-Sigue said soon will start the construction of a 50-hectare industrial economic zone in Silay City and in the 13-hectare IT and tourism zone in Bacolod as IT and BPO sites.

"We have six call center training providers identified with Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority)," Batapa-Sigue said.

"Likewise, most of our colleges and universities have their training programs that address the need for more talents" added Batapa-Sigue.

All this, Batapa-Sigue acknowledged, became possible after President Arroyo established the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), the Philippine Export Zone Authority, and the local ICT councils and federation.

"We have become cyber leaders inside the cyber corridor that President Arroyo has created," she said.

"We also would like to inform her that we fully support the pending bill in the Senate that seeks to institutionalize the CICT," said the councilor who is running for congress for the lone of district of Bacolod City.

Opportunities

Opportunities brought about by the ICT industry are one of the legacies of President Arroyo.

President Arroyo, in her message pointed out that, 10 years ago, the country's economy was in reverse.

Amid the problems she faced when the presidency was entrusted to her, President Arroyo said she was "focused like a laser beam on delivering real results to better the lives of ordinary Filipinos."

"As an economist I knew that to reverse years of economic decline, we had to instill fiscal discipline, grow the economy and invest in human and physical infrastructure," she said. "Today, we created what is today a global powerhouse - the Philippine BPO industry."

Strategic areas

President Arroyo emphasized the achievement was reached through promoting strategic investments in three areas to include digital infrastructure, creation of Commission on ICT, and the development of human capital.

Under digital infrastructure, the administration encouraged more broadband services in cities and identified growth areas.

Thus, the cost of international calls went down from 40 cents to 2 cents a minute through the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP).

Also, the number of Internet users jumped from 2 million in 2000 to more than 24 million today, the President said.

In the area of investments, she cited to be as appropriate policy and legal environment.

"We created the Commission on ICT. It was guided by the policy that the ICT sector should be guided by the market calls, with minimal government interference," she said.

The President noted that instead of regulating, incentives were given to developers of IT parks, assisted investors in identifying promising provincial sites, and built more transport facilities in cities.

"This philosophy drove fast the growing of call centers. Now the market is leading to the growth of the higher value added segments of the off shoring and outsourcing industries, such as accounting, legal, medical, personnel and administrative services."

Furthermore, the President also said to increase the country's share in the global market for offshoring and outsourcing services, the government intensified the implementation of various programs that will train its work force 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.

In the country, more than 4,000 public schools are now connected to the Internet, including 22 schools in Bacolod City.

The President said in technical education and skills training, the government has invested three times "much as the combined budgets of the three previous administrations."

A very large portion of this investment goes to scholarships for the BPO industry, including 3,000 in Western Visayas, she said. (With Teresa Ellera-Dulla)