Bacolod beams with pride
The people of Bacolod City found another reason to smile.
Earlier this week, the highly urbanized “City of Smiles” unveiled the country’s first Las Vegas-inspired welcome marker, located within the sprawling Northill Gateway township along the new Bacolod-Silay Airport Access Road in Negros Occidental.
A joint project of the local city government and property giant Megaworld Corp., the Bacolod Welcome Marker does not only showcase the colorful revelry of its famed Masskara Festival, but also aptly mirrors the increasing vibrancy and competitiveness of Bacolod as a highly attractive investment destination in the Visayas.
In an interview with the Inquirer, Bacolod City Mayor Evelio R. Leonardia said the city is well poised to sustain the growth momentum that it now enjoys. And there are telling signs as well: Bacolod City, according to Leonardia, has seen significant increases in business and vehicle registrations, the entry of new industries, and the expansion of national real estate firms like Megaworld, which is investing billions to put up two township projects in the city namely the 53-ha Northill Gateway and the 34-ha Upper East.
“The mere presence of big players is a testimony that there must be something here in Bacolod. Business registrations hit an all time high at 23,000 and for us, this is big. The (Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index) ranked Bacolod City as 8th most competitive among highly urbanized cities. We will therefore ensure that the business climate here will not just be conducive for growth, but for rapid growth. We have to grab this opportunity and ride on this growth momentum,” Leonardia explained.
“The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry also consistently had (Bacolod) on its shortlist for most business-friendly city. We believe that if we are able to come up with a healthy, favorable business environment, this will not just be for the businesses, as eventually, the benefits will trickle down to the people—this is about inclusive growth,” he added.
And this Bacolod Welcome Marker, according to Leonardia, is expected to play a role as it is seen to further boost tourism in the city. He envisioned this marker to serve as an iconic landmark in the city and a destination in itself, where tourists and residents—much like at the famous Las Vegas welcome marker in Nevada—will flock to take photos, stop for coffee and snacks, and shop for local delicacies and other souvenirs.
“Even if I conceptualized it, this would not have happened without Megaworld as we are in their property in the boundary of Bacolod and Talisay… This is a first in the Philippines and we have to be very proud of this,” Leonardia added.
Harold C. Geronimo, senior AVP and head for public relations and media affairs of Megaworld, meanwhile said in his speech that the idea for this welcome marker came about in one of his conversations with Leonardia. It was in the middle of this year that the design details were finalized.
“I’m very proud our mayor in Bacolod—he is very much hands on in this project. This is his idea, his vision and Megaworld is just implementing this vision and making this vision into a reality,” Geronimo said.
Bacolod City, according to Geronimo, is important to Megaworld, and hence the reason why it has two townships in it. The marker stands on the Northill Gateway township, which will comprise of Megaworld’s Forbes Hill and Suntrust Properties’ Fountain Grove.
“By next year, we will be starting construction of the 7.5-ha Northill Town Center, our commercial area in this development where the marker stands. It’s an expansive mall, leisure, entertainment, lifestyle district. By 2022, we will be finishing our Northill Town Center and you’ll be seeing a lot of commercial establishments—pasalubong centers, souvenir shops and cafes,” Geronimo disclosed.
“This is very exciting. I think we will be a trailblazer and a trendsetter in this part of Bacolod because we will be the first one to build something like this here,” he concluded.
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