MAKATI CITY – The president of IT and Business Processing Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), Mr. Jonathan de Luzuriaga, did not hide his admiration on Ormoc Mayor Richard Gomez’s determination in courting BPO’s over to his city. “Wow, you really brought Ormoc here, lock, stock and barrel,” he kidded, as the mayor’s team poured into the conference room of their office. “Nag shutdown siguro ang Ormoc City, now that you are all here,” he added.
He also lauded the mayor for coming over, “which is the first time for a mayor to do”. He said that it was usually the other way around. It was IBPAP who would go around the country, looking for new locations. De Luzuriaga was with executives of two big Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) during the meeting held on Friday, August 12, at the IBPAP office. They are Cathy Ileto of Sutherland and Marife Zamora of Convergys.
Gomez’s team, on the other hand, consisted of Vice Mayor Toto Locsin Jr.; councilors Roland Villasencio, Mario Rodriguez, Bennet Pongos Jr. and Nolito Quilang; city administrator Vincent Emnas and executive assistant Perry Deen; city engineer Ranulfo Oliveros and city planning officer Raoul Cam; and representatives from the Ormoc Chamber of Commerce led by their president Jude Abenoja.
The IBPAP president also expressed his delight at meeting the Ormoc vice mayor, who is the younger brother of Albert Mitchell Locsin, the founder of IBPAP. “Your brother started this with just one table, a computer and one secretary at a corner in Ascot. Now, we are here,” he said. Mitch Locsin has then moved on to become the vice-president of SME Nation of the PLDT Group.
During the meeting, the IBPAP president briefed Mayor Gomez and his team on what BPOs are. He dashed preconceived notions that these are “call centers” for people who speak good English.
He said there is a large menu of BPOs that Filipinos can fit in. Even nurses have careers with the industry, he said, aside from accountants, animators and computer engineers.
Meanwhile, Cathy Ileto of Sutherland said that it was admirable for Mayor Gomez to go all his way to meet them. She gave him valuable tips on what they were looking for in areas where they locate.
This would include good fiber optics, peace and order, the presence of adequate health care facilities, enough manpower supply to fill their seats, tax incentives and the willingness of the LGU to bend back to accommodate them. With Mayor Gomez, she said, this is not a problem as they could see his eagerness.
They also cautioned that LGUs should not be corrupt. “We deal with foreign investors. They don’t like that. They don’t like under the table dealings,” she added, hinting this was where other LGUs that they visited failed.
Former Leyte governor Carlos Jericho, who became Energy Secretary, would often talk about a BPO wanting to locate in Ormoc City a few years back. The BPO did not pursue its plans, and the former governor is mum about the reasons why. All he said was that the decision was good for Leyte (pre-Yolanda times), as the locator chose to expand their operations in Palo, Leyte instead.
During the discussion, too, the issue of high rental rates in Ormoc City surfaced. The BPO representatives said it was just too high.
The BPO representatives also advised the Ormoc officials to activate their ICT council, and send them to various seminars for them to understand the intricacies of the industry.
While no commitments were reached after the end of the meeting, Mayor Richard Gomez said it was still fruitful because they got to know about BPOs first hand, and got valuable tips from the industry players.
He said that Ormoc would do its best to be investor-friendly, but added that Ormocanons in general should also be investor-friendly. “Maybe, those into property rentals should realize that they should not make their rental rates very high as it was turning off investors,” he noted. Cathy Ileto and Marife Zamora of Convergys explained that a “small BPO,” which is around 500 seats, pours in some P 20-million a month to the local economy. In fact, she said, their studies show that where a BPO is present, ancillary businesses immediately open. “Mag-o-open ang Starbucks, mga big franchises, because the people have spending power,” she said. The people and the businessmen in general will benefit from the ripple effect that one small BPO will create, she said.