Remembered in history as the place where the last stand was made by Filipino and American soldiers who fought the Japanese Imperial forces during the Second World War, Bataan has courageously risen from that fall. Unstoppable in terms of progress and development, the province is set to continue to move up and sail towards a better future for its people.
But for progress to take place, it requires the cooperation of every citizen. The strength of a community is dependent on the unity of its members. That is why, in order to promote progress, the Provincial Government of Bataan developed the concept of 1Bataan. Through 1Bataan, the government, private sector, religion, academe, workers, fishermen, farmers can unite in pushing the development of the province forward.
“That is the call for everyone to unite, to work together, to create a better province for everyone. That is 1Bataan,” says the province’s hardworking governor Albert Garcia.
PROMOTING QUALITY LIFE
In the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, Bataan has the lowest poverty incidence in the country at 1.6%. This was not achieved at a snap of a finger, but through hard work, calculated decisions and proper planning.
The key to decreasing poverty, according to Governor Garcia, is economic growth and economic growth is fueled by investment. But to attract investments, one should create an environment that is conducive to do business. Bataan strived to achieve this and in 2018, the province bagged the Most Business-Friendly LGU award given by Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).
Bataan has the lowest poverty incidence in the country at 1.6%.
“If you want to grow your economy, you have to be business-friendly. Create an environment that is conducive for business to invest, domestic or foreign,” says Governor Garcia. The provincial government worked hard to improve the peace and order situation, provide better educational institutions and health service, infrastructure, and promote ease of doing business. In turn, this has resulted to more investments and businesses coming in to Bataan and producing more jobs for the people.
For Governor Garcia, one of the best things a public servant could do is give people an opportunity to have a livelihood. With a stable source of income, they are able to support their families, become less dependent on government assistance and they can live better lives, thus, eliminating a big percentage of the poverty problem.
With the many opportunities opening in Bataan, the province has also experienced families migrating back to Bataan, not only from Manila but also from abroad. “We see people coming back and getting employment here in Bataan. They prefer to stay here instead of working as an OFW.”
To accelerate investment and economic growth, the government of Bataan created a Public-Private Partnership Investment (PPPI) center. PPPI is a contract agreement between the government and a private firm aimed at financing, designing, implementing and operating infrastructure facilities and services traditionally provided by the public sector.
“We’re the only LGU that has a PPPI center. We created a PPPI center to facilitate the PPPI mode of doing projects, so that there will be more investment and we can advance the services to the people,” says Governor Garcia.
In April this year, the provincial government offices of Bataan will be transferring to the newly-constructed Provincial Capitol building, The Bunker, designed and dubbed as such
by its architect because of the World War II significance of the province. Built under the PPP scheme by Malaysian firm AlloyMTD.
The Bunker is not just a beautiful building, it’s functional as well. It will house a One-Stop Citizen Service Center under one roof and one system.
“Imagine experiencing ease of doing business, in transacting to get your passport or NBI clearance or business permit. All in one location, all in one system,” the governor excitedly says. And with the technology now, it wouldn’t be hard to achieve. “It’s a very big challenge, but if we succeed, it’s going to be the first in the country.” And it will drive more business in Bataan and create even more jobs for the people. The area around The Bunker is being offered for further development to build commercial establishments, banks, cinema, Business Processing Outsourcing offices, a hotel and condominium building.
The establishment and operation of the Agriculture Innovation and Technology Center (AITC) is another PPP worth noting. Commencing soon is a partnership with an Israeli company on precision farming. This will help farmers manage their land properly and increase crop production.
DRIVERS OF GROWTH
The first economic zone in Philippines was opened in Mariveles, Bataan in the early 1970s (Bataan Export Processing Zone or BEPZ), designed to contribute to the economic growth of the country. But due to numerous factors, development in the area idled and declined rapidly over the years. The once ecozone looked like a “ghost town,” until efforts were made to revive and redevelop the place and convert it into a productive freeport zone.
Bataan is host to two freeports and several economic zones, which are the drivers of growth for the province besides the typical industries of fishing, farming, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). These zones provide generous fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, inviting numerous manufacturing, light, medium and heavy industries, and in turn, produce jobs all-around the Bataan Peninsula.
We see people coming back and getting employment here in Bataan. They prefer to stay here instead of working as an OFW.
“We have Subic, which is a freeport, 70% of which is Bataan. We have the fastest growing freeport in the country which is FAB (Freeport Area of Bataan). And within, we have the Hermosa Economic Zone, Morong Economic Zone, TEZ Flagship Project of Mt. Samat, PNOC Industrial Park, Government Arsenal which we’re converting into a defense economic zone, the IT parks and the commercial establishments in Balanga and Abucay, plus the tourism belt in Morong, Bagac, and Bagac-Mariveles,” says Governor Garcia of the industries that bring growth and generate jobs for the Bataeños.
“We’re nurturing that. We’re improving the infrastructure, roads, telecommunications,” the governor adds. “We’re improving the law so that we can be more competitive in giving fiscal and non-fiscal incentives. We’re improving peace and order so that we’re going to be conducive for more investments. And we’re improving skills, and education, so that once the students graduate and become professionals, they can have a good future, not in Metro Manila, not abroad, but even here in Bataan.”
OPENING ROUTES TO PROGRESS
To give people another option to access the province from Metro Manila, Bataan opened the 1Bataan Integrated Transport System, cutting the four-hour land travel via public transportation to less than an hour (roughly 50 minutes). The integrated transport system includes ferry transfer from Esplanade Ferry Terminal in Pasay City (near Mall of Asia) to Capinpin Port in Orion and vice versa, plus a shuttle service from Orion to different points in Bataan. The ferry service, which saves a lot of travel time, is especially useful to people who need to access the NAIA terminals like OFWs, balikbayans, airport and airline workers, businessmen, office workers, students, and tourists going to and coming from Bataan.
The provincial government, through a Memorandum of Understanding, has also forged partnership with a Chinese automobile company, BYD, to implement a comprehensive Monorail Transit System, aimed to decongest local traffic especially in the highly urbanized Balanga City and Mariveles.
To encourage progress and help other provinces in Luzon, Bataan has proposed to build a 20-km bridge along Manila Bay that would connect Bataan and Cavite, therefore connecting North and South Luzon. Currently, the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) is conducting a feasibility study for the proposed Manila Bay Bridge. If the plan pushes through, it would be the longest bridge in the Philippines and one of the most iconic projects in the country.
Tirelessly leading these developments is Garcia, the current governor of Bataan. He said that being a public servant is a difficult job—very challenging and overwhelming—but also fulfilling, especially when you see the programs you implement work and impact the lives of people and the province in a positive way.
Because every day he receives a number of requests and is presented with different kinds of problems, the governor always tries to look for a win-win solution. It has been his guiding principle as a public servant, and of course, to treat everyone with respect and dignity.
“Treat everyone right—whether they are high government officials or big businessmen, whether they’re simple families or marginalized workers—because that’s the right thing to do,” says the governor.
A typical day for Governor Garcia is filled with meetings in and out of the Capitol, late lunches, and attending social functions, with Monday as the busiest day. With his busy schedule, does he have time to relax and de-stress?
“It doesn’t take much for me to de-stress,” he says. Typically, he would just watch a movie, eat, go out, be with family and friends or exercise a bit.
MOTIVATING GOOD PERFORMANCE
Following the principle in management that ‘If it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed. If it can’t be managed, it can’t be improved,’ the Provincial Government of Bataan developed a system to measure performance by the different departments: through project monitoring system, wherein all strategic initiatives per department are listed and monitored until the project is accomplished. Once completed, everyone in the department is entitled to a performance bonus.
Currently, only the Provincial Government has access to the monitoring site. But plans to make it available online is under way, starting with the police monitoring data. Data for the other departments will follow in the coming years as they improve and fine-tune the system.
“It’s so hard to measure the performance. That’s what we’re trying to do, so we can incentivize good performance,” says Governor Garcia. And by doing so, the spirit of meritocracy can prevail. You get the best people because you reward good performance. You get the job done.” — AVI CANALE