New local government units emerged as the most competitive cities and municipalities, cited at the 4th Regional Competitiveness Summit on Thursday, July 14 in Pasay City.
The National Competitiveness Council (NCC) recognized the topnotchers of the 2016 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index across four categories namely: Highly Urbanized Cities, Component Cities, First to Second class municipalities and Third to Sixth class municipalities.
Quezon City was awarded as the most competitive Highly Urbanized City (HUC) after settling for fourth place in 2015, followed by Makati and Manila.
The only two cities that maintained their spot for this year's index were Naga City in Camarines Sur and San Fernando City in Pampanga, which placed first and second respectively as most competitive component cities.
Related: The role model, Naga City
Legazpi, Albay, which was at 15th place the previous year, ranked third.
Neighboring municipalities Taytay and Cainta in Rizal secured the first and second place as the overall most competitive among first to second class municipalities, while former topnotcher General Trias, Cavite slipped to third place.
Infanta, Quezon led as the overall most competitive third to sixth class municipality, followed by Baler, Aurora. Calamba, Misamis Occidental surged to third place from ranking 48th in 2015.
The province of Rizal was awarded as the most competitive province for the year.
The NCC also introduced the “most improved” category this year to recognize cities and municipalities that made significant jump in rankings.
Improving by 430 notches is Barugo, Leyte which was awarded as most improved third to sixth class municipality as it placed 56th this year.
The most improved first to second class municipality is Pagbilao, Quezon after jumping to 51st from 389th in 2015.
Ormoc City in Leyte emerged as the most improved component city after improving its ranking from 91st in 2015 to 30th this year.
Meanwhile, Taguig City was awarded the most improved highly urbanized city.
Almost 1400 cities nationwide were ranked at this year's summit covering 85% of the country, a far cry from the 230 cities that participated during the first year.
Huge improvement has also been seen as NCC Private sector Co-chairman Guillermo Luz said local government units can now complete 80% to 100% of data requirements, compared to previous years where they only submit around 60% of the data needed.
The NCC aims to add sustainability measures and to align the local index to that of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) competitiveness standards for the fifth year of the summit in 2017.
"I want mayors to think how do I compare to another ASEAN city? How do I compare with Chiang Mai (Thailand), Penang, Kuala Lumpur (in Malaysia)? Because if they think of other local cities, that's only internal competition," Luz told reporters on the sidelines of the event.
War on red tape
But Luz believes there is still much that local government units can do.
President Rodrigo Duterte has been vocal in eradicating red tape and has said multiple times in press conferences that he wants to cut business permit processing to a day.
"We want cities to learn from fast cities. We want to simplify processes, we want to throw out steps which we think are not needed and repeal laws which are no longer needed," Luz said. “If I have a passport which is renewable every five years, I don’t see why we have to renew business permits annually.”
The NCC launched “Project Repeal: The Philippine Red Tape Challenge,” in April, which aims to eradicate redundant or unnecessary laws, starting with departmental orders.
The agency has received 20,000 departmental orders for repeal or amendment as of July, with 4,000 of which already up for amendment.
"Everything is geared in eradicating red tape. It's absolutely strangling the country," Luz said.
Elyssa Christine Lopez is Entrepreneur.com.ph's staff writer. Follow her on Twitter@elyssalopz.