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BNeFIT : How it all started

BNEFIT: Setting the Roadmap for Negros’ Outsourcing Potential

From a vision to reality, that was how Bacolod began its expedition in 2004 to capture the biggest names in the contact center industry of the world and eventually to land as one of the top “next wave cities” in the outsourcing industry of the Philippines today.

As chair of the Committee on Communications and Energy of the Sanggunian Panlungsod of Bacolod, neophyte Councilor Jocelle Batapa-Sigue proposed the creation of a Bacolod IT Focus Team and a pioneering project to be implemented by such team, which she named as the Bacolod Information Technology (IT) Investment Program. Recently, the said program was cited as the Best Public Sector Practice for LGU Category in Region VI by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Regional development Council (RDC) in Western Visayas.

The Bacolod City IT Focus Team chaired by Batapa-Sigue began with the primary objectives of making Bacolod as the newest ICT hub in the Philippines and to contribute to the development of the Western Visayas region as a strong regional cluster in the Philippine Cyberservices Corridor.

Today, the people behind the team, mostly from the academe, business and private sector take pride in having truly helped the city soar. Recently, the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), the Department of Trade and Industry and the Business Process Association of the Philippines formally awarded Bacolod as one of the “next wave cities” of the Philippines in the outsourcing and off-shoring (O & O) industry, along side with Iloilo City, in Western Visayas.

During the late nineties, many local government units took advantage of the growing market by taking a pro-active, aggressive and focused stance in attracting ICT-enabled service firms BPO companies to attract them outside of Metro Manila. This prompted Bacolod to look for innovative approaches and re-evaluate its strategies to be more germane to the demands and the pace of the growing multi-million industry. The most important strategy was to create a “team” that combined the forces of government, private and business sector, academe and telecommunications companies to develop new strategies and approaches. The creation of the IT Team is in itself a “giant leap” forward because it marked the prelude of a more dynamic, up-to-date, and responsive manner in marketing, handling, and closing investments deals for the benefit of Bacolod City. In a record span of just a few months, the IT Team has accomplished its target activities and surpassed its goals. More than anything else, the program continues to spark the interest and commitment of the different stakeholders to forge partnerships and continually network and update their capabilities and resources for a common goal – to make Bacolod an ideal site and host of ICT and business process outsourcing (BPO) firms.

To further institutionalize the initiatives, the Sangguniang Panlungsod passed City Ordinance No. 440 creating the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Council of Bacolod sponsored by former Councilor Lyndon Caña and Batapa-Sigue.

Today, the approximately 5,000 jobs as a result of the operations of the call centers as of July 2008 and the millions of pesos in terms of salary and other ancillary benefits and revenues generated for Bacolod underscore the efforts of the Bacolod IT Focus Team.

With the passage of City Ordinance No. 402 S. 2006 or an ordinance laying down the procedures and requirements for approval of request for endorsement from the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Bacolod for accreditation with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) of special economic zones, IT parks/buildings and tourism development zones authored by Batapa-Sigue, more real estate developers became interested in helping out. Today, the city has about thirteen sites accredited by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), of which six are already presidentially-proclaimed.

The DTI Provincial Office and the Bacolod Business and Investment Promotions Center had been supportive of promotional activities such as the creation on the “Make IT Bacolod” web-page in the official website of Bacolod City, production of Make IT Bacolod/ICT Advantage brochures focusing on three major concerns of locators, i.e. infrastructure (telecommunications, power, utilities), human resource (academe, labor quality/ manpower sustainability) and real estate (availability of PEZA-accredited IT parks and buildings), productive participation of Bacolod in the 2006, 2007 and 2008 e-Services Philippines Global Outsourcing Conference and Exhibition in Manila and in the in the 2007 Asian ICT Summit in Cebu.

The most important initiative of the Bacolod IT Focus Team was the creation of the ITSNET or the IT Schools Network of Negros Occidental, Inc., which spearheaded the Bacolod IT Fair with IT Quiz, Laptop Assembly and Website Olympics for three days every December for two consecutive years since 2005 to 2006, accreditation by TESDA of call center training and medical transcription programs, availment of about PGMA Scholarship Coupons from TESDA for call center training programs, and eventually convening a group which is private-sector lead for the whole province of Negros Occidental, along with TESDA, DTI and CICT.