For the past years I have been a regular visitor to Naga and Naga is my base when I stay in Bicol. So, I have come to observe and be familiar with Naga. I have also travelled a lot over the years and I have stayed in different places. With that I am able to compare Naga with the other cities I have become familiar with.
Naga is a beautiful place with a charm of its own. It is place of gentle people who are really proud of their city, with enough reason of course. In UP Ibalon it has contributed its fair share of denizens.
Naga consistently ranked high in competitiveness surveys. It is a well-run city led by legendary mayor who has won award after award and who is not content to just sit behind a desk. It has also led in people empowerment, transparency and public consultation.
With these factors, Naga could be flying high soon but that is not what I see. I even see the threat that it could be left behind and I will be sad for that.
I see the Naga government is very good in the old things that it usually does. In short, the grind. Complain about something, you will be heard. A pothole and a burst pipe is reported, it will be patched soon. A problem rises, the city government will try to look for solutions, in the soonest possible time, that is equitable for all.
But then I feel something is lacking but I cannot put my finger into it.
Even decades ago Naga is already a great educational center. But I see that it really cannot absorb its graduates. Graduates are human capital and it is Camarines Sur which paid for that. Once lost few will come back and they will no longer be available for development nor consumption.
Naguenos might not be bothered by it but to an outsider like me the lack of development in the Diversion Road, which has been open for the past 25 years, is an indictment. I heard the former big landlords of Naga would rather sit on their land and see its “value” rise year after year. I see that beyond the highway the marks of the former haciendas are still around. Why not convert it into a value-added enterprises? I think they should learn a thing or two from outside developers. Or are they simply waiting for outside developers to drop by?
I heard one land owner was dissuaded from putting up a warehouse across Avenue Square because it would ruin the ambience of the strip. Good move but it reminded me of Concepcion Grande which became a center of warehouses. In some cities, rather than putting up warehouses they would rather build buildings for IT purposes.
Which brings up my question. Where is the IT park of Naga? I have learned from a former restaurant owner in Naga who is now an operations manager of a big BPO company that putting up a call center is no big deal and it does not need foreign capital or enterprise to put it up. Why is it that the known call center in Camarines Sut is in Pili and Naga people have to be shuttled there?
In the South, leaders do not talk of bringing in foreign or outside investors. Of course, they will be happy if those kind of people come. They just talk more on how local business leaders should invest so that the city will grow (here in our place they are prepared to just break even in the first ten years but they know they are investing for the future). And of course they will try to look where they fit in in the government’s Medium-Term Development Plan (and Cagayan de Oro is very good in this).
Do the local wielders of capital in Naga get together to talk about and pool their resources to plan for the projects of the future? Are Naga landlords willing to become capitalists instead of just relying on rent seeking? Or Naga will just wait for the next Enrile or Astillero?
In Ormoc City, Koreans come in droves and help in the development of the city. All for the love of golf and the sea (their seas are frigid and their weather is cold). Ormoc is developing and I don’t think many people will vouch for the competence or cleanliness of its government (so it seems a city can be sold beyond this). Do Naguenos wonder now how can the formerly-derided Camarines Sur Watersports Comple(CWC) became such a hit?
Every time I come to Naga I notice that radio anchors all devote their time for criticism. But of course some are obviously paid hacks of some powers-that-be. But how does hawk-eyed criticism relate to development?
Maybe the city needs to put up a think tank for future options so that it will have a vision and an action for the 21st century economy. And that is not about attracting Indian-owned call centers that pays just a pittance for stressful work.