On Friday March 30, more than 200 local and central government officials, NGOs, academics and donor representatives met in Manila for the Public Governance Forum of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA). This CIPE-sponsored event highlighted the remarkable accomplishments in public governance made by cities and central government agencies that are working with ISA.
There are now more than 40 cities across the Philippines, along with several provinces and thirteen central government agencies, that have adopted ISA’s Performance Governance System (PGS). CIPE has worked with ISA since 2004 to develop and promote the PGS as a public governance reform tool in the Philippines.
When a city adopts the PGS – an adaptation of a management evaluation tool developed at Harvard Business School – city officials work with a broad-based community consultative group to design specific public policy goals, an action plan to accomplish them, and performance metrics by which to measure progress. And the results are remarkable.
At this March conference, the city of Balanga (a city of approximately 150,000 on the Bataan Peninsula) presented the impact that the PGS is having in its communities. Using strategic frameworks introduced by the PGS, and public financial management training imparted by ISA, Balanga developed a comprehensive development plan aimed at making the city into the country’s leading “university town” (there are five universities located within the city).
The city has invested in extensive pedestrian connections to link the various campuses to each other, and it is leasing public land adjacent to the campuses for private investments in hotels and retail. The entire city has been re-zoned to attract investments targeted at the university populations. Mayor Jose Enrique Garcia, who first enrolled the city in the PGS and is its outspoken champion, was recently re-elected by a huge margin.
In his presentation that highlighted Balanga’s successes, Mayor Garcia explained that “ISA and the PGS helps us make capital investments in a more strategic way, geared towards accomplishing real goals, as opposed to the ad hoc nature of city spending prior to the PGS. ISA also taught us to develop performance metrics so that we can empirically measure progress, and how to mobilize public-private partnerships.”
The city of San Fernando, Pampanga also presented the results of its public governance reforms as part of the PGS. Mayor Oscar Rodriguez explained that the city has reduced the poverty rate by nearly 70 percent since adopting the PGS, so that less than 2 percent of the city population currently lives in abject poverty (compared to a national average that is nearly six times that). Over 50 percent of San Fernando’s population now classifies as “middle class”, up from 38 percent in 2005 (the national average is 19 percent). The city has built an additional 6300 housing units, made record investments in education, and private investment is flooding in.
Mayor Rodriguez proudly boasted that the city’s motto of “Kaya Natin ‘To” (Yes We Can) is increasingly true thanks to its participation in ISA’s good governance initiative. The visionary public officials who participated in this CIPE-ISA program are jointly announcing “yes we can!” Indeed, some can now say “yes we did!!”