Significant developments for the advancement of the City of Iriga have taken place since 2004 when we adopted the principles of good governance. We have undertaken innovative programs and projects that empower and solidify communities. A highly participatory and multisectoral effort to develop a comprehensive plan anchored on a clear and shared vision for the long term sustainable development of the city was put in place. This served as the city government’s blueprint that defines the strategies and programs and translates the Social Contract with the Irigueňos into efficient, effective, and responsive actions that are doable and achievable within the prescribed time. Positive responses and actions were generated from stakeholders resulting to improvement in the performance of the city’s economy.

The pattern of economic activities in the City of Iriga over a four-year period, from 2009 to 2012, shows that the economy is improving, gradually shifting to a mix of commercial and service activities, dominated by wholesale and retail trading, followed by allied services and emergence of micro, small and medium enterprises. Investments grew at the rate of 14.8% per annum during this period. Local revenue correspondingly increased at 18.09% per year. The city was even ranked No. 1 in 2011 by the DOF-Region V for generating a collection efficiency of 120.7%.

With the increased demand for consumer & investment goods, the Service Sector grew, and this can be attributed to improved quality of products and innovations, marketing & cost reduction measures. The city pump primed the economy by providing an investment-friendly atmosphere supported by an inter-agency convergence of services and most importantly, strengthened and promoted entrepreneurial and micro, small and medium enterprise development or MSMED. MSMED have been accepted as the engine of economic growth and for promoting equitable development. The major advantage of the sector is its employment potential at low capital cost.

A process of enhancing entrepreneurial skills and knowledge through structured training and institution-building programmes were institutionalized. It aims to enlarge the base of entrepreneurs in order to hasten the pace at which new ventures are created. This accelerates employment generation and economic development.

The city encourage private initiatives to transform a business concept into a new venture or to grow and diversify an existing venture or enterprise with high growth potential. Entrepreneurs identify an innovation to seize an opportunity, mobilize money and management skills, and take calculated risks to open markets for new products, processes and services. One significant milestone in this area is the example of Atty. Santiago G. Ortega, Jr., owner developer of the Iriga Plaza Hotel, Iriga Shopping Arcade and this Convention Center, the edifice where we are now. He also provided the capital requirements for the operation of the Iriga City Technology and Livelihood Development Center (ICTLDC) in the amount of Php 2.0 Million. Other local businessmen either expanded and/or diversified their existing business.

WHAT HAS BEEN DONE?

In 2006, the city launched the Iriga City Technology and Livelihood Development Center (ICTLDC) through City Ordinance No. 2005-052. Its objective is to promote, support, strengthen, and encourage the growth and development of entrepreneurship, livelihood and MSMEs in all productive sectors of the economy. It is a convergence of inter-agency services that includes Business Counselling, Skills and Entrepreneurial Training, Product Design and Development, Appropriate Technologies, micro-financing and Marketing.

Sangguniang Panlungsod Resolution No. 2008-077 was passed and approved declaring Processed Foods, Primarily, “Gulay na Katnga” (Taro leaves in coco cream) and “Tinuktok” as the One Town One Product of Iriga City, and other Processed Food Products which may be Developed by the Program, and, Provision of Support thereof. This paved the way for the establishment of the Katnga Center, which served as the “Training Center and showroom” for various skills and finished products. The promotion and development of Katnga as the OTOP of Iriga City gained significant milestone when the program received a grant funding from the Department of Labor and Employment for the development of Katnga Production Center at San Agustin, Iriga City. The project’s major output includes upgrading of technology in the production process of katnga thru the use of modern equipment, and, thereby gain a more faster method to cope-up with its increasing demand; development of a proficient producer of the most nutritious and delightful variety of flavors of “Katnga” (taro leaves in coco cream) which is globally competitive; and, commercializing the product in the local and in the global market.

Establishment of the Green Charcoal Project was also launched in 2011 in partnership with the Barangay Council of Brgy. Francia, Iriga City. The project used water hyacinth, rice husk, corn stalks, forest and agri-wastes and other biodegradable garbage into biomass Green Charcoal briquettes for use as alternative fuel for cooking. Promotion of the product is being done thru DTI assisted national Trade Fair and thru internet marketing where export prospects is being encouraged.

Cognizant of the vast potentials of the above programs and other projects and services provided by the city, several women’s group and community members organized themselves and became partners in the development of the program that eventually resulted to the promotion and development of the following livelihood projects:

1. “Katnga” Production
2. Green Charcoal Briquetting
3. Coco coir Production
4. Organic Farming
5. Stuffed Toys, Cross-Stitching and Frame Making
6. Midrib Craft
7. Bamboo Furniture
8. Sandals Making
9. Native Products

a. Bags/Basket
b. Decors
c. Mats

10. Meat Processing
11. Polvoron Making
12. Pickled Papaya Making
13. Coco Jam Making
14. Assorted Candies Making
15. Plant / Flower Gardens
16. Pili Candy Making
17. Salabat Making
18. Nata-De-Coco Making
19. Metal Craft
20. Wall Decors
21. Flower Arrangers
22. Passion Fruit Juice & Wine Making
23. Vermi-Composting
24. Dressmaking & Tailoring

The critical role of competitive markets and entrepreneurs in economic development has emerged in the city for the last several years. The city learned that the primary barrier to economic growth is often not so much on the scarcity of capital, labour or land as it is a scarcity of both the dynamic entrepreneurs that can bring these together and the markets and mechanisms that can facilitate them in this task. Many of the lessons learned from experiences would point to the following:

1. Start with a clear understanding of the objectives of the programme, focusing on the development of ventures with the potential for growth
2. Develop a criteria to select carefully the target group that is the most entrepreneurial.
3. Identify the market through an intensive preparation process, searching for innovation and growth potential.
4. Provide support through an institutionalized organizational structure with forward and backward linkages.
5. Decide on a basic methodology that integrates the entrepreneurship development elements with other support and follow-up
6. Create special measures to develop the desired competencies of trainers and facilitators.
7. Launch a pilot entrepreneurship development programme and expand to a network as warranted
8. Internalize the entrepreneurship development support system so that it has the momentum and capability to continue and expand through local efforts
9. Put in place a supportive and coordinated government policies.

For the years 2013 and 2014, the city is fortunate to have been allocated an Empowerment of the Poor Fund from the Bottoms-Up Budgeting and Planning Program of the National Anti-Poverty Commission to be used for the Development of MSME and other Livelihood Projects in the city. The development of an organic agri-based livelihood project is ongoing. This is our contribution to the food security and environmental protection program.

Under my administration, the city shall continue to establish an atmosphere that is conducive to economic growth and the creation of employment. By further strengthening, promoting and innovating the good practices advocated and established, I am confident that the city will be able to champion the promotion and development of MSME and create successful entrepreneurs that will boost the economy of the city. With the support and collaboration of DTI, DOST, DOLE, TESDA, DA, FDA, FNRI, and other NGAs and private entities, the city’s pursuit for MSME development will undoubtedly be realized.