Hello, Bacolod!

abs-cbnNEWS.com, Newsbreak

Posted at Dec 02 2008 05:19 PM | Updated as of Dec 03 2008 03:46 AM

Bacolod City did not top the list of the next-wave cities of the Department of Trade and Industry, Commission on Information Technology and the Business Process Association of the Philippines. But it surpassed all other business process outsourcing (BPO) locations in one category—business environment.

In the 2008 scorecard for next-wave cities, Bacolod City landed on the 5th spot—behind the clusters of local government units of Laguna and Cavite, and the cities of Iloilo and Davao. Bacolod City, however, got the highest score of 96% in the business environment category of the study.

The business environment category, which accounts for 15 percent of the final score, takes into account the incentives given by local government units to BPO firms: peace and order situation, crime rate, travel advisories and vulnerability to natural disasters. Other criteria used in the survey are availability of talent (50%), infrastructure (30%) and cost (5%).

Bacolod City is one of the growing BPO locations outside Metro Manila. The city hosts three big BPO firms—Teletech, Teleperformance and Convergys—and a number of smaller companies. Around 5,000 employees are working in the BPO industry.

Gigi Virata, executive director for information and research, said that Bacolod topped the list because of its low crime rate, low vulnerability to natural disasters and its information and communications technology (ICT) council.

Oscar Sanez, chief executive officer of the BPAP said that the presence of PEZA sites in Bacolod was behind its high score in the business environment category. Bacolod has 13 PEZA sites.

The city’s interest in attracting investments in the BPO sector started in 2004, said city councilor Jocelle Batapa-Sigue.

“Because of the growing number of BPO companies, they have to look for locations other than Metro Manila,” Sigue told abs-cbnNews.com. “We took advantage of that external factor.”

Sigue, who heads the Bacolod-Negros Occidental Federation for ICT, said that they first started by organizing a group called Bacolod IT Focus, which was institutionalized by an ordinance in 2006 and was renamed as ICT Council of Bacolod. The creation of ICT councils, she added, was a significant step for them.

“It provides easy access to local government officials,” Sigue said adding that the council brought together representatives from the government and the private sector. Sigue said that aside from the creation of ICT councils, the local government also:

  • Endorsed the creation of Philippine Economic Zone Authority sites, where businesses can avail themselves of incentives from the local government.
  • Passed an ordinance laying down the procedures and requirements for approval of requests for endorsement from the city council for accreditation with PEZA.
  • Promoted Bacolod City through Internet and brochures.
  • Participated on conferences and fora.

The ICT council also set some targets for 2010 and outlines strategies to reach them. The council hopes that by 2010, there will be 10,000 outsourcing and offshoring jobs for Bacolod and Negros Occidental. It also targets to increase hiring rate to more than 20 percent and diversify the ICT sector from call centers to software development, medical and legal transcription and IT engineering.

To do this, the council wants to implement teacher training and immersion in the industry, give scholarship programs, and launch a massive information campaign
Sigue said LGUs should be an enabler and catalyst at the same time to be successful in attracting BPO investments: “As an enabler, it must come up with atmosphere conducive to business and as a catalyst, it must be able to bring all stakeholders to the table.”—By Jesus F. Llanto, abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak