The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) confers the 2020 Most Business-Friendly City Award in the Highly Urbanized City category to Valenzuela City, a known innovator and “disruptor” in the public governance realm for its COVID-19 pandemic response.
Awarded during the 46th Philippine Business Conference and Expo today, this year’s search for PCCI’s Most-Business Friendly Local Government Unit spotlights on the sustained innovative actions by LGUs to help the business sector – the sector which experienced the direct blow from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A safety tool
From the 3S Program of Simple Processes, Speed in Delivery and Service Excellence pioneered by Valenzuela City in local governance since 2004, it has come a long way by harnessing technology to eliminate graft and corruption and by speeding up business processes through the 3S Plus Program.
The program, launched in 2013, is now setting the bar high with Paspas Permit as part of the 3S Plus Valenzuela City Online Services. Paspas Permit was launched last November 2019 in time for the business renewal season by the first quarter of 2020.
Initially a tool for efficiency and for making things faster and more convenient, Paspas Permit is now a safety tool nowadays as taxpayers have resorted to paying, applying and renewing their taxes and permits online without the need to come to the City Hall due to the imposed health protocols.
Also in compliance with the provisions of the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) Law in government transactions, Paspas Permit further enabled the City Government of Valenzuela to collect taxes even when payment deadlines were nationally mandated to be extended. The system also helped the City to gradually refill its coffers for its COVID-19 programs and projects.
In the same way, taxpayers who want to pay for their taxes on time can do so with the use of the Paspas Permit and can browse for a variety of online services available from the Business Permit and Licensing Office, Assessor’s Office, Treasurer’s Office, Local Civil Registry, and the Office of the Building Official.
“Paspas Permit is no longer just a tool for efficiency and to cut red tape, but rather, in this post-ECQ time, it is a tool that will keep our taxpayers safely in their workplace or at home and it gives a new notion to „working from home‟,” Mayor REX Gatchalian said.
Fast forward into the future, Valenzuela City is now in the works of upgrading the Paspas Permit platform to include Zoning Permits, application of Health Cards and Sanitation Permits which is expected to cover the entire business spectrum.
“You don’t have to come to City Hall to get your business permit, to pay your real property tax, and to transact your local civil registry requirements. In fact we are taking it further. From Zoning requirements all the way to Health Cards and Sanitation Permits, you can now pretty much transact everything in the newly updated Paspas Permit module,” Mayor REX excitedly shared.
Sustainable business opening
Last August 18, Valenzuela City inaugurated two (2) newly-built and modern laboratories to strengthen its localized targeted mass testing. One of the laboratories, Valenzuela Serology Laboratory, will be conducting serology tests targeting Valenzuela-based factories aiding in the sustainable opening of the industries without hampering business operations.
Home to 1,425 factories and warehouses with some 51,000 factory workers, a machine-based serology testing machine will help the businesses in their workforce scheduling and management. The two (2) Abbott ARCHITECT i1000SR machines, the pilot client to conduct both Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and Immunoglobulin M (IgM) machine-based antibody tests, can also release around 1,300 test results per day.
Embedding medicine into the business model approach, an antibody profile will be given by the local government to the companies based on the workers’ serology tests.
“In Valenzuela City, we have found a mechanism to sustainably open the companies... We will be testing the workforce not just for post-infection antibodies but for current infection [as well],” Mayor REX said.
A result of negative IgM and negative IgG means that no ongoing infection and post-infection antibodies are found in the patient and no further test is required.
Workers with this result may be suggested to be included in the full workforce or to other operational requirements as designated by the management.
A negative IgM and positive IgG means that the patient should consult the City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU) for further assessment, while a positive IgM and positive IgG or positive IgM and negative IgG means that the patient will have to undergo RT-PCR test and also confer with the CESU for further review.
This approach would be more convenient, more sustainable and more cost-efficient for both the City Government and its industries, as Valenzuela City also aims to be of big help to businesses as its strong partner in city-building and growing its vibrant industrial sector.
Mayor REX expresses his commitment to the private sector saying, “This [serology test] is important so that you can pretty much schedule your workforce properly. You can identify which set of employees works from home, which employees are more vulnerable.... It is also more sustainable because it's faster. You can get the results immediately the same day the samples are drawn from your employees.”
In Valenzuela City, going digital is not just focused on revenue-generating opportunities but also takes its initiative to help its local Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to transition into the digital marketplace.
“We want to make sure that our SMMEs not only survive, but rather, thrive... Gone are the days where you go to a store, where you physically buy things and trade things... Now everything can be done in the digital marketplace,” Mayor REX stated as the entire City Government of Valenzuela gears up to help boost the online presence of its local SMMEs and online sellers.
“We tapped into existing capacities out there. We partnered up with Valenzuela Online Palengke and Valenzuela Online Tiangge, private Facebook group curators who have thousands of followings... We want to make sure that there is space for SMMEs to be able to sell and get their products out there. The local government unit will be in charge of advertising, boosting and placing banner ads for these existing Facebook pages,” Mayor REX Gatchalian said.
This project will help the local SMMEs and online sellers to have a wider range of audience and target market. The city-funded advertisements will also help them be known by prospective buyers even outside Valenzuela City.
The first LGU to launch a partnership with local Facebook page and group curators, Valenzuela City will also be sharing available trainings and seminars to capacitate its local SMMEs with the skills and knowledge needed for their transition to the new normal. It will also maintain a Market Place Directory for buyers to check the legitimacy of the online sellers.
Reaching the essential indicators to be the 2020 Most Business-Friendly City, Valenzuela City excellently performed in addressing the current major challenges affecting the recovery, maintenance and promotion of business in the LGU area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, it has introduced viable and sustainable initiatives and policies for the recovery of local businesses through capability-building programs and promotion of new technologies – finding the „silver lining‟ in every COVID-19 challenge faced by the local government.
“In Valenzuela City we have realized that there are silver linings and opportunities in this pandemic... We have realized that this pandemic offers us a push into the digital world. We realized that the migration towards governance over online platforms is now the new normal... To the men and women of PCCI, maraming maraming salamat... Whenever the private sector comes into the picture, we know it is more efficient, we know it is more data-driven and demand-driven,” Mayor REX gladly said.
Valenzuela City is a PCCI Hall of Famer having won the Most Business-Friendly City Award in 2012, 2014 and 2015. The City also won last year, making Valenzuela City the Most Business-Friendly City in Metro Manila for two (2) years in a row since its Hall of Fame Award.
The local government has more in store as it readies more innovations with the use of technology – now extending the “disruption” to the social services sector.