SINCE its establishment in 2008, the Bacolod-Negros Occidental Federation for Information and Communications Technology (BNEFIT) has been an active partner of the government in creating jobs and driving innovation for Filipinos especially in the countryside.

Marking its 10th anniversary this year, the organization recently brought together its members, partners and other stakeholders for a night of celebrating successful journey as trailblazer of providing employment opportunities to the people.

Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, founding president and executive director of BNEFIT, recalled that 10 years ago the organization was established after stakeholders from the academe, government, and industry gathered to create a province-wide organization that aims to make Bacolod City and Negros Occidental become globally competitive in the (ICT) industry.

Batapa-Sigue said the target was to create 10,000 jobs by 2010 and become part of the Philippine Cyber-Corridor Cities.

"Today, Bacolod City is a Center of Excellence for ICT as of 2013 and host to more than 20 ICT firms providing jobs to almost 30,000 Filipinos," she said, adding that this milestone is something that BNEFIT should celebrate with its founders and partners.

By 2022, the organization eyes to double the number of generated jobs to 60,000 in Negros Occidental as it continues to strengthen collaboration with the public and private sector.

Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr., who spoke at the BNEFIT 10th Anniversary Founders and Partners Night at Seda Hotel in Bacolod City Friday, underscored that talent development is very important thus, the Provincial Government is helping the organization in this aspect.

The governor vowed that the province will continue to support the initiatives of BNEFIT.

For his part, Mayor Evelio Leonardia recognized that BNEFIT played the biggest role in developing the local ICT industry.

He also assured the federation of the city's continuous effort to maintain good business environment in Bacolod.

During the activity, BNEFIT has awarded the Symbol of Lifetime Recognition to eight honorees, who helped the organization realize its aspirations and contributed to the development of the country's ICT industry.

They are Senator Juan Edgardo Angara and his father former senator Edgardo Angara, Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) Director General Charito Plaza, Department of Information and Communications Technology Undersecretary Monchito Ibrahem, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Regional Director Rebecca Rascon and Provincial Director Lea Gonzales along with Marañon and Leonardia.

In a video message, Senator Angara lauded BNEFIT for making Bacolod City and Negros Occidental as among the stars in the country's information technology - business process outsourcing (IT-BPO) industry.

Plaza, for her part, said she is very honored to receive the recognition assuring that the Peza under her watch will continue to encourage investments in the countryside.

"I am deeply honored to accept this award on behalf of the DICT. But honestly, I think you deserve this recognition more than us with how you transformed the city in just a decade," Ibrahim, in his acceptance message, said.

Individual recipients of the Symbol of Lifetime Appreciation as icorporators are Loida Acha, Teresa Asuncion Borromeo, Julie Gretchen Dizon, Dennis Jalbuena, Richard Loveland, Hans Montenegro,

Raymund Nones, Andrew Regalado, Reymund Sabay, Shiegfred Tan, Michael Tanner, Mary Verdure Tolentino, Teresa Villanueva, Agnes Villar, and Batapa-Sigue.

Organizations receiving the Symbol of Highest Recognition as institutional founders are STI - West Negros University, Bacolod

City Government, Ayala Land Inc., Fernando F. Gonzaga Corp., Teleperformance, Convergys, University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos, University of St. La Salle, Teletech, and LasalTech.

BNEFIT also presented the Symbol of Deepest Gratitude

to various partners including the DICT, Peza, Information Technology Business Process Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), Game Developers Association of the Philippines (GDAP), Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Region VI, National ICT Confederations of the Philippines (NICP), DTI, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

BNEFIT newly-elected president John Dave Dueñas, chief executive officer of HyBrain Software Development Corporation, earlier said it is now their chance to make sure the federation’s role becomes not only relevant to local players and industry stakeholders.

“We will also make sure that close communication and effective collaboration between the academe, industry players and government agencies address the issue of skills deficiency among our available manpower pool,” Dueñas added.