Interview: Albert S Garcia
What role can local government play in human capital development and inclusive growth?
ALBERT S GARCIA: Human capital is a priority, and local governments must engage with stakeholders in educational institutions to discuss provincial economic growth and define the necessary skills to develop the future work force. In Bataan there is an effort to diversify economic growth side by side with manufacturing. There is great potential in the business-process outsourcing industry, and it is important to develop the talent needed to supply the industry’s requirements and graduate jobs. There should be a symbiotic relationship between the local government and the educational institutions. As the province achieves a higher level of economic growth, universities and colleges have to improve their performance in educating and training people to meet the requirements of the industries coming in. A provincial government should develop each of its competitive economic sectors working in collaboration with the national government or through public-private partnership (PPP) arrangements to expand and enlarge industry. In turn, these sectors would take care of marginalised and lower-income communities, ensuring that nobody is left behind in the province’s economic growth.
In what ways can Bataan stimulate the formation of industrial estates?
GARCIA: Market forces continue to drive direct land use throughout the province and the establishment of a number of economic zones. Local governments can attract investment by capitalising on their location, strengthening connectivity and accessibility, and ensuring the reliability of their people. Currently, the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB) remains the country’s fastest-growing free zone and specialises in light manufacturing and garments. The Philippine National Oil Company Alternative Fuels Corporation Industrial Park, which originally had been developed for petrochemical projects, had its presidential degree amended to allow the development of other industries, particularly energy projects. There are a number of other industrial zones and IT parks across the province. The latest economic zone is the Government Arsenal. It is the first defence economic zone in South-east Asia, and has already gained interest from regional and international defence companies.
Port congestion in Manila triggered efforts to decentralise trade activity from the country’s main gateway towards the south and north. Bataan’s strategic location across Manila Bay makes it an ideal logistics hub. A dry bulk terminal is due to open within the FAB this year to strengthen the connectivity of the province, which already hosts two major seaports. The renovation of the Roman Expressway, the province’s primary artery, will accommodate more trade and commerce in the area. Long-term goals include connecting Bataan and Manila via fast ferry and the proposed P500bn ($11.1bn) Manila Bay flood control PPP project. Both would significantly improve Bataan as a logistics area for Metro Manila.
To what extent can enhanced security complement the investment value of the province?
GARCIA: Peace and order are major incentives for investment. Bataan is uniquely positioned to ensure peace and order through its command centre, which affords investors a certain level of comfort, in addition to strengthening mechanisms to ensure peace and order across the province.
Moreover, this allows for prevention mechanisms to mitigate the effects of climate change, and makes disaster response more efficient, which, when coupled with flood control projects, enhances the value of an investment area. Regarding power generation, there are several sources of power in the province that ensure the reliability of base-load capacity and complement industrial growth, which is an advantage.
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