Iloilo City may not be able to regain the economic title “Queen City of the South,” which is said to be being held by Cebu City, but it is still the “Princess City of the South.”

The “princess title” was conferred on Iloilo City by the Philippine Cities Competitiveness Ranking Project (PCCRP) of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM).

“Citizens and officials of Iloilo City, the regional center and main economic hub of Western Visayas, have a twin goal – the development of its agro-industry and growth of tourism,” the PCCRP said in its study report.

Iloilo, which is one of the first cities established by the Spanish colonizers, is known for its old churches and classic mansions, proofs of the metropolis’ glorious past.

“With the developed beach resorts, it is said to have great potentials for tourism. Iloilo is also considered an agricultural haven producing major crops being sold in the city’s markets. The vision towards agro-industrial development is seen to get a boost with the eventual operation of an airport of world-class standards,” the PCCRP report added.

“Dubbed as ‘The Princess City of the South’ because of its natural deep-water port, Iloilo City has a population of 365,820 according to Census 2000, making it one of the most populous cities in the Philippines.”

PCCRP assessed the city’s “capability to provide an environment that nurtures dynamism of its local enterprises and prosperity of its residents.”

The AIM study used seven drivers of competitiveness in measuring the cities edge over other urban centers – cost of doing business; dynamism of local economy; linkages and accessibility; quality of human resources and training; infrastructure; responsiveness of city government to business needs; and quality of life.

AIM recognized Iloilo City on Feb. 13, 2006 as an investment hub in a survey on the small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) which scrutinized the ability of leading and emerging cities to foster healthy businesses and communities.

Iloilo City ranked highest in quality of human resources and training.

“This maybe attributed to reasonable taxes and availability of avenues for continuing education.”

It also ranked high on dynamism of local economy with indicators such as the “availability of accessible financial institutions, high average household income and high market size.”

The quality of life in the city is linked to “adequacy of rest and recreational facilities and security environment for business needs.”

The responsiveness of city government to business needs is attached to the manifestation of local promotion campaign called “Buy Ilonggo.”

“Iloilo City is also an ‘infrastructure driver’ due to the improved internet service providers and accessibility of land and sea transportation like Ro-Ro, improving waste management and more banks and hotels which are beneficial to local producers,” the PCCRP explained.

“Improvements have also been observed in the processing of business documents with the procedures becoming easier and systematic. The service sectors are doing best, economically speaking, especially in the areas of telecommunications, hotels and restaurants, fast-foods, manpower and professional services,” it added.

The June to October 2005 survey identified Iloilo City’s strengths including high profitability of businesses; low wages; high growth of registered businesses; accessibility of international entry and exit; availability of good IT training; presence of private and public sector organized training programs; good ratio of tertiary educational institutions per 100,000 population; good administration of justice; transparent local government; effective city mayor’s leadership and conducive security environment for businesses.

Iloilo city along with its neighbor Bacolod City were adjudged most competitive mid-sized cities as results of PCCRP undertaken by AIM, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), The Asia Foundation and GTZ.

This story first appeared in The Guardian Iloilo April 11, 2007