- Published: 06 November 2023
The City of Butuan today is outperforming most Philippine cities in terms of transformative governance. It is a rising transformation gem in Caraga recognized for its innovative projects, including being one of the 15 cities in the world declared as winners in the last Bloomberg Philanthropies Global Mayors Challenge that came with a $1 million prize, technical support, and coaching for three years for the implementation of the city’s winning proposal.
After eight years, I was back in Butuan a couple of weeks back to speak at MindaCon 2023 which the city hosted. The well-attended conference is an annual event of all the ICT Councils in Mindanao and is jointly organized by the Department of Information and Communications Technology and the National ICT Confederation of the Philippines.
From being a relatively underdeveloped city some years back, its transformation is evident in all aspects of the city’s life. The city’s economy is growing rapidly, new businesses are opening up, its infrastructure continues to improve and the city is fast becoming a model in governance. It has aspirations to become a global smart city as shown by its recent award. It is a city with a rich history and culture, dating back to the pre-colonial era. Butuan was once the center of the Butuan Kingdom, one of the most powerful and influential kingdoms in the archipelago. It is just right that everyone in Butuan aspires to bring back the city’s prominence in the global space.
The last Bloomberg Philanthropies Global Mayors Challenge is meant to uncover and support innovative solutions developed by cities in the wake of Covid-19. It received entries from more than 600 cities representing 99 countries.
The city’s entry to the Global Challenge is its AgriBOOST project. It is a data-driven agri-ecosystem innovation that aims to fight food insecurity by equipping farmers with the right data to make better decisions about planting crops and catalyzing access to agricultural products benefitting 21,000 households in the city.
Butuan’s progressive leaders led by Mayor Ronnie Vicente Lagnada have been instrumental in driving innovation and development in the city. Mayor Lagnada was not present during the conference as he was in New York to receive the Bloomberg award. He was ably represented, by Vice Mayor Lawrence Lemuel Fortun who presented the different initiatives of the city including the passage of a city ordinance creating the Butuan City Innovation and Startup Council. The city aims to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the city by providing support and resources to startups and small businesses. We also heard about the emergence of homegrown startups like MapX, an online platform for managing and visualizing geospatial data on natural resources.
The city recently legislated its Smart Gender and Development Code which aims to promote gender equality and empower women by ensuring that they have equal access to opportunities and resources. From what I know, the city is one of the few Philippine cities that has passed such an ordinance.
Both legislations were authored by the only female councilor of the city, Councilor Cherry Mae Busa, who also leads the multisectoral Caraga ICT Council. She has been the driving force behind the digital transformation of the city.
Butuan has also developed a new urban plan that aims to transform the city into a digital and data-driven community. In addition, Butuan has plans to develop a new city port that will serve as a gateway for trade and commerce in the region. The port will be equipped with modern facilities and infrastructure that will enable it to handle large volumes of cargo. The city also plans to develop a new industrial park that will attract more businesses and investments to the area.
Butuan's transformation is also having a positive impact on the environment. The city is investing in renewable energy and sustainable development initiatives. Butuan is also working to protect its natural resources, such as its rivers and what is left of its forests.
Another high point of the conference was the presentation shared by Governor Santiago Cane, Jr. of the province of Agusan del Sur. We were all delighted to hear about the digital transformation journey of his province and how it has resulted in a positive impact on the lives of the province's constituents who are now able to access services using their mobile phones.
The transformation of both Butuan City and the province of Agusan del Sur can serve as models for other local governments in the country. They have shown that it is possible to achieve rapid economic growth and social development while also transforming their communities into sustainable, inclusive, and livable places. We also laud their willingness to share with other LGUs the digital solutions they have developed in order to drive faster economic growth for Caraga.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Mon Ibrahim
Quelle/Source: Manila Bulletin, 30.10.2023