For the third year in a row, the province of Rizal has won the Most Competitive Province award given by the National Competitiveness Council (NCC), a government body that aims to push the country’s Global Competitiveness Index ranking. The award was given at the 6th Regional Competitiveness Summit held at the Philippine International Convention Center last August 2018.

Developed by Spanish-American economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin and Spanish economist Elsa V. Artadi, the Global Competitiveness Index measures a country’s ability to provide high levels of prosperity to its citizens. Following the standards set by the Global Competitive Index, the NCC evaluates the competitiveness of local government units based on four points: Economic Dynamism, Government Efficiency, Infrastructure, and Resiliency.

NCC’s assessment of LGUs is an indicator for government officials and potential investors. For public executives, it shows whether or not services are being delivered to constituents and points to specific areas of improvement; for the private sector, it is a guide for determining where they could set up new businesses.

Vying for NCC’s nod is tough and tedious. Data submitted by municipalities and cities are verified by the Philippine Statistics Authority. “It’s like going through the eye of a needle. The criteria are very strict,” says Milagros “Mitos” Diestro-Trias, provincial planning and development officer of Rizal.

She elaborates, “For instance, NCC checks if the growth of revenue is on an upward trend. The facts must be backed up by the Department of Interior and Local Government Finance Department. Whatever data is submitted must tally with official records. LGUs cannot invent or make up the information.”

Rizal got the Most Competitive Province of 2018 title since three of its municipalities did well in their respective categories; Taytay and Cainta ranked first and second respectively in the Most Competitive Municipality, while Antipolo came out fourth among the Most Competitive Component Cities in the Philippines.

In a statement released to media after the 6th Regional Competitive Summit, Rizal Governor Rebecca “Nini” Ynares said that the award affirms the hard work and cooperation of leaders and citizens. She declared, “It reflects the provincial government’s effort in promoting social progress and better standards of life for the people. This recognition will also provide a more enabling business environment that will make Rizal the preferred place to do business in the country and will all the more inspire us to do our best for our people.”

Occupying a land area of 118,265 hectares or 1,182.65 square kilometers, Rizal is bounded by the provinces of Bulacan in the north, Quezon in the east, and Laguna in the south. It is home to 13 municipalities and one city: Angono, Antipolo, Baras, Binangonan, Cainta, Cardona, Jalajala, Morong, Pililia, Rodriguez, San Mateo, Tanay, Taytay, and Teresa. Rizal inhabits one-fifth or 8.07 percent landmass of the progressive Calabarzon (formerly Southern Tagalog) Region composed of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon.

Historically, Rizal’s area scope used to be much bigger. However, in 1975, then President Ferdinand Marcos signed Presidential Decree 824 creating Metro Manila. As a result, areas that were part the province of Rizal–such as Marikina, Mandaluyong, Pasig, and Taguig–were placed under Metro Manila.

Marikina, Mandaluyong, Pasig, and Taguig, as we know, are among the country’s most dynamic cities. Had Rizal retained authority over these key parts, perhaps the provinces’ financial resources might have been much wealthier.

Yet, as the Most Competitive Province award ably demonstrates, Rizal has managed to do well.

Big business is very evident; the major investors in Rizal include the biggest local corporations like Ayala, Robinsons, Sta. Lucia, Fil-Estate, and SM. The province’s proximity to Metro Manila, cool climate, and scenic environment make it a good location to live in. “That has led to an increase in population due to migration, and in turn, an increase in the investments sector,” reveals Trias.

Not only is Rizal a thriving economic zone, it is also rich in culture and tourism.

Rizal offers destinations for families and tourists: Avilon Zoo and Wawa Dam in Rodriguez, Tres Escalon Falls in Taytay, the Wind Farm in Pililia, Daranak Falls and Masungi Falls in Tanay, the Gorge in Montalban, and Hinulugang Taktak in Antipolo.

For history and art buffs, there are the churches of St. Jerome in Morong, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo, and St. Joseph in Baras; the Blanco Family Museum in Angono, and the Petroglyphs in Binangonan.

Rizal is also the site of major Filipino celebrations like the Maytime Fiesta in Antipolo and the Higantes Festival in Angono.

Rizal is also the cradle of four National Artists, namely painters Vicente Manansala and Botong Francisco, and musicians Lucio San Pedro and Francisco Feliciano.”

Crucial to Rizal’s status as Most Competitive Province is Governor Ynares’ flagship Ynares Eco System (or Y.E.S., for short), which is anchored on the principles of cleaning, greening, and recycling.

Says Trias, “Gov. Nini’s concern is to protect the people and the environment as she did during her first administration as governor of the province of Rizal in 2001 to 2004.”

Some of Gov. Ynares’ many key activities and projects are the establishment of provincial-wide cleanliness drives, the rise of Taytay as the nation’s garments capital, the development of alternative energy in the Pililia Wind Farm, rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law through the Bahay Pag-Asa house, and management of materials recovery facilities in the barangays.

Another key project is Oplan Busilak (busilak means “pure” in Filipino)—the major clearing of waterways leading to the Laguna Lake and Manila Bay.

Rizal is also a relatively orderly and peaceful province. In fact, in 2015, the Philippine National Police declared it as a “Conflict Manageable Area.” Says Trias, “When it comes to security, we do have occasional problems but in Calabarzon, Rizal has the lowest crime rate.”

Unlike other places where conflict arises due to differences in political allegiances, Trias is proud to report, “Our political atmosphere is relatively serene.”

Staff members from other local governments have traveled to Rizal to learn about the latter’s best practices. At visits such as these, Trias has heard about problems due to differences in political affiliations. “LGUs tell me, ‘Our provincial board refuses to approve a project because the beneficiary is a (political) enemy.’ That is why infrastructure projects are not implemented properly…Thankfully, that is not the case in Rizal. Kasi sa amin, okay naman.”

Trias emphasizes that the provincial government grants requests based on need and not on political connections, ensuring that priority projects are funded.

Thus, it is not surprising that Rizal has built a wide and well-made road network, so much so that Department of Public Works and Highways has recognized it as the Province with the Best Road Networks.

Whether you are a politician from an opposing political party, a tricycle driver, or a teacher, if you have genuine concern that needs the attention of the provincial government, you will have the time of day. Governor Ynares assures that she will give you an audience. She says, “My office is open to all socio-economic and political classes. Everybody’s welcome to come here…We entertain different kinds of people.”

LEAGUE experienced Governor Ynares’ accommodating nature firsthand when she allowed the team’s editorial, photo, and videography teams to have a quick shoot and interview with her. On that afternoon, the governor was reportedly in the thick of staffing issues for a provincial hospital scheduled for opening in a few weeks.

In spite of her busy-ness, the governor shared her views, including an interesting sidelight about the first time Rizal won the Most Competitive Province award in 2016. She says sincerely, “It really caught me by surprise because we were invited to come to PICC…We did not prepare for it, but we managed to earn the recognition of the Most Competitive Province in the Philippines.”

The esteemed leader shares this story to underscore the culture of excellence in the province. She says, “The fact that we won without preparing for it means that it is how we work here at the Capitol. It’s really how we do things here.”

The governor notes that with the influx of business and industries into Rizal, she hopes she can be able to generate more employment. “So that people here don’t have to travel and pay for transportation; even in their place of residence, they can find work.”

For Governor Nini Ynares of Rizal, winning awards will always be nice rewards, yet service to its over two million population is still the greater fulfillment. “Awards inspire us to work harder; but with or without them, we are committed to do what is best for the people of Rizal.” — GAY ACE DOMINGO



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