MANILA, Philippines?On his last term, Mayor Roque Verzosa Jr. of Tagudin, Ilocos Sur, wants to put up the longest zip line in Asia.
?This is my sixth year as the mayor of this municipality. That?s why I?m really pushing hard for the 3.41-kilometer zip line to be built in Sitio Alog, Barangay Pallogan,? Verzosa said.
A favorite among adventure junkies, a zip line allows a person attached to a harness to ?float? through an inclined cable positioned several meters above the ground.
?I envision Tagudin to be dynamic,? Verzosa said.
Despite transforming Tagudin from a fourth-class municipality (annual income: P25 million-P35 million) to a first-class one (annual income: over P55 million), Verzosa?s dream of a zip line creating a tourism boom is not easy to fulfill.
It will take a leap of faith by a cash-rich businessman to invest in the project before Verzosa can lure adventure enthusiasts to Tagudin.
Tough but not impossible. Verzosa?s dream was presented before a gathering of politicians and businessmen on Feb. 9 titled ?Bukluran para sa Kaunlaran 2011? (Partnership for Progress).
Versoza and six other local government officials spoke at the meeting at Taipan Place in Ortigas Center, Pasig City, organized by Kaya Natin!, Entrepreneurs? Organization-Philippines (EO), Ateneo School of Government (ASOG) and World Bank-Knowledge Development Center.
The event allowed local government units (LGUs) to pitch their cities and municipalities to businessmen and invite EO members to invest in their areas.
Other officials who spoke at the gathering were Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte of Quezon City; Mayor Cecilia Claire Reyes of Alicia, Isabela; Mayor Gerardo Valmayor of San Carlos City; Mayor Isidro Zayco of Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental; Mayor Marivic Belena of San Jose City; and Mayor Gloria Congco of Cabiao, Nueva Ecija.
Verzosa highlighted Tagudin?s location and its potential as a stopover for tourists who are trekking north and are looking to quench their thirst for adventure. The other local government executives gave a similar sales pitch: Come to us. We can help your businesses.
Harvey Keh, Kaya Natin! lead convenor, said the meeting was aimed at bridging efforts.
?LGUs, with good governance and ethical leadership, and businessmen, who are really looking for opportunities for growth, will work together to create jobs and facilitate growth,? he said.
Kaya Natin! is a movement which seeks to promote lasting change and ethical leadership in the country.
The LGUs introduced the demographics of their areas and presented their business policies and procedures, the incentives they provide businessmen, and their natural resources.
In attendance were not just ordinary businessmen.
?To become a member of EO, you have to gross at least $1 million annually,? Keh said. ?And we have 120 members at EO with a combined revenue of about $4 billion,? said EO president Mark Yu, who conceptualized the meeting.
Henry Grageda of the World Bank said he was surprised that the LGUs had their unique niches.
?It is a very encouraging feature that the local government chief executives themselves are quite aware of the investment potential of their areas, and how to make the investor climate and their policies conducive to attract private investors,? he said.
Run like enterprises
Reyes said the event was a good opportunity to market Alicia town in Isabela province, the agricultural trade center of Cagayan Valley region.
?I hope we could attract the businessmen to invest in our municipality. We need feed mills, gas stations, hotels, tourism facilities, and transportation, among other things,? she said. ?Because we are autonomous, we try to run our municipalities like a business as well. We need the money for social services for our people.?
EO members are optimistic a partnership can be formed, and investments that generate income and create jobs can be made after seeing the data that the LGUs presented, said Yu, also Seaoil Philippines chief financial officer.
He said trust was the biggest difference of the event. ?It does not feel like a political event. There?s a level of comfort among the entrepreneurs and the leaders of municipalities that we can work together,? Yu said.
What the organizers are trying to look for is the fit, Grageda said. ?It is our hope that this kind of engagement actually promotes investments in the areas that we opened up today.?
Through Bukluran para sa Kaunlaran 2011, organizers aim to encourage LGUs to curb corruption and create more efficient systems to make their areas more business-friendly for the entrepreneurs who are looking for new possible sites for their businesses, Keh said.
On the side of entrepreneurs, Yu said ?it?s about lifting the tide for everyone.?