By Jason B. Neola
MANILA --- The Manila Times, the country’s oldest and longest-running newspaper since 1898, has chosen Naga City as one of the Top 13 Philippine Model Cities, the most livable urban centers across the Philippines.
Called “The Philippine Model Cities,” with the theme “Beyond the Most Livable Urban Centers,” the event served as facility to recognize the nation’s top model cities that stand out on different areas of excellence such as peace and order, livelihood and employment, social services, among others.
Naga was also given a Special Citation as the country’s top “Livelihood & Employment Haven,” owing primarily to the city government’s governance innovations and political will in introducing changes that led not only to the transformation of the public market into a lucrative economic enterprise of the city and its small entrepreneurs, but also to the market’s transformation towards sustaining a culture of discipline, cleanliness and inclusive decision-making within the rebranded Naga City People’s Mall.
A shortlist of 37 cities were drawn out based on the long listed cities’ teaching of environmental issues in schools; innovation in green building and public spaces; establishment of good networking between and among all sectors; and delivery of excellent services to the public, including tourists.
Highlighted in the citation was the rebranding of former Naga City Public Market into Naga City People’s Mall (NCPM) that made the largest single-roof public market in Asia, constructed in 1965, to become one of the city’s most profitable economic enterprises and main economic drivers today.
NCPM, with its 36,000 sq. meter-floor area, remains to be the one-stop-shop and budget-friendly supermarket in the city, catering not only to Naga residents but also to locals of neighboring towns, as well as to tourists visiting Metro Naga.
Next is the GrOW Negosyo, a contraction of the Barangay Growing Opportunities for Wealth Negosyo program, which aims to promote and grow livelihood opportunities at the barangay level thru micro and small enterprise operations.
A brainchild of Mayor John G. Bongat, GrOW Negosyo also operates by raising the barangay level employment rate, improving the household income levels, giving way to the development of more proud barangay-owned products, and attaining the city’s vision for economic empowered communities.
GrOW Negosyo beneficiaries are being supported by the city government thru the delivery of essential services from working capital to financing and marketing support to skills and management training including product development and production equipment support.
The forum-cum-awards event, which was held last May 11 at the New World Manila Bay, cited Naga’s major contribution in improving the quality of life of its constituents, thereby making its business environment friendlier and the Philippines as a great place to live.
Like Naga, the 12 other cities were also given honor based on their respective contributions in the achievement of economic progress and sustainable development for the Philippines.
These are: City of Sta. Rosa (Safe Haven Award); Batangas City (Environment-Friendly/Clean & Green Award); City of San Fernando (Business-Friendly Award); Tagaytay City (Retirement Haven Award); Parañaque City (Education Hub Award);
Quezon City and Zamboanga City (Social Service-Oriented Award); Mandaluyong City (Wealth Center Award); General Santos City (Road and Home Haven Award); Laoag City (Emergency and Disaster Management Award); Davao City (Tourism Hub Award) and Bacolod City as the Top Philippine Model City.
Manila Times President and Chief Executive Officer Dante Francis Ang II personally congratulated Mayor Bongat after the city made it to the Top 13 Philippine Model Cities. He also wished that Naga will continue doing the good work.
“I hope that this event would inspire Naga to soar higher and reach even higher goals. I am very happy that Naga City is among those having selected by a very distinguished committee of judges to be one of the winners as we also hope that the examples of Naga will be an important lesson for the rest of the country,” he said.
The panel of judges spent almost a week evaluating the documentary evidences sent by the cities and were gathered together for the tallying of scores and final judging last April 26. It was grueling, Ang said, but the evidences made them happy to know that every city is striving to excel to make the lives of their constituents better.
This year’s board of judges is composed of Principal Architect and Urban Planner Felino A. Palafox Jr., Atty. Eleanor Roque, head of P&A Tax Advisory and Compliance Division; Director Rosemarie Bosch-Ong of WILCON Depot and Marife B. Zamora, chairman of Convergys Philippines Services Corp.