Remarks by Mission Director Gloria D. Steele, Cagayan de Oro Business Forum

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

[As Prepared]

Secretary Gregory Domingo of the Department of Trade and Industry
Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya of DTI
Undersecretary Nora Terrado of DTI
Undersecretary Austere Panadero of the Department of Interior and LocalGovernment
Chairman Jose Nuñez, Jr., of the Development Bank of the Philippines;
Mayor Oscar Moreno of Cagayan de Oro City;
City officials and department heads
Guests from various organizations
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Magandang hapon sa inyong lahat! It is my pleasure to join you in this exciting event which highlights Cagayan de Oro City as the Philippines’ most competitive city and a gateway and strategic hub for agribusiness, logistics, industry and services in the Southern Philippines.

Early on, the U.S. Embassy Manila’s United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recognized the huge potential of Cagayan de Oro City as an economic hub in the region. In 2010, USAID’s Local Implementation of National Competitiveness for Economic Growth (or LINC-EG) project assisted the City in streamlining its business permits and licensing system through the setting up of a Business One-Stop Shop.

When Sendong struck in 2011, USAID knew that the City would need support as the devastating typhoon would temporarily set-back previous reform initiatives, and the Cagayanons would need to get back on their feet.

Because of this and its vast economic potential, USAID included Cagayan de Oro as part of its Cities Development Initiative (CDI), a USAID urban development program under the Partnership for Growth (PFG) between the United States and the Philippines.

The PFG has four common goals: 1) create a more transparent, predictable, and consistent legal and regulatory regime in the Philippines, one that is less encumbered by corruption; 2) foster a more open and competitive business environment with lower barriers to entry; 3) strengthen the rule of law that is grounded in an efficient court system capable of delivering timely justice; and 4) support fiscal stability through better revenue administration and expenditure management.

The PFG today has several projects under its wing. The Cities Development Initiative specifically synchronizes and coordinates USAID assistance to help Philippine cities achieve their potential as engines of growth, which will contribute to the improvement in the welfare of people in urban and rural areas. CDI was launched in three cities in early 2012: Batangas, Iloilo, and Cagayan de Oro.

The CDI launching in Cagayan de Oro was witnessed by the former U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, Harry K. Thomas, Jr. and attended by over 100 key officials representing city government, national government agencies, academe, business organizations, and the media.

As a CDI pilot city, our assistance focused on working with the city government of Cagayan de Oro in pursuing regulatory reforms especially in business permitting, trade and investment promotion, industry-academe linkages, environmental management and universal healthcare access.

We have come a long way since then. CDO ranked the highest in the National Competitiveness Council’s competitiveness ranking of cities and municipalities in 2013. That same year, CDO also recorded one of the fastest times in processing business renewals of less than one hour.

The city is now under new leadership. I hold Mayor Moreno in high esteem and I am confident that our partnership will continue to prosper for the benefit of the people of Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao. I am also happy to hear of the strong collaboration between the local government, the business sector, and civil society organizations in Cagayan de Oro City.

Let me take this opportunity to recognize Mayor Moreno, who, barely seven months into his term, has already started to introduce innovative reforms in business permitting. I was informed that CDO has set up a satellite Business One-Stop Shop (BOSS), the first ever for business permit renewals by a city in the Philippines. CDO is also piloting an online registration system for new business applications this year and is seeking assistance in working out an online payment system. We, at USAID, share the same vision with you in promoting the use of technology in delivering fast, efficient, and more transparent government services.

The optimism we take away from this event will definitely enable us to expand our cooperation under PFG. As a CDI partner, USAID will continue to assist Cagayan de Oro City in sustaining the gains it has achieved in the past two years. Consistent with the strategic approach of the Philippine Government, we strongly believe that investment and business activities translate to job creation and poverty reduction.

I wish CDO and its people continued success as we work together for resilient, sustainable, and inclusive growth.

Maraming salamat po!

Cagayan de Oro