Starweek Magazine

City of Santa Rosa: The Lion City of the South

Razel Estrella - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Like the lion that spends most of its day resting calmly and action, the city of Santa Rosa is marked by peace, order, and economic dynamism. Within a decade, the city South of Luzon has become a popular community where one can raise a family and grow a business

The beginnings of a citySanta Rosa used to be a barangay in Biñan, Laguna. It eventually turned into a town where agriculture was the main source of livelihood. In 1969, Leon Arcillas served as first councilor and saw the potential of the town, a reason why, when he became Mayor of Santa Rosa from 1998 until 2004, he lobbied for the town to be converted into a city.

In July 2004, by virtue of Republic Act No. 9264, Santa Rosa officially became the 101st city in the Philippines. “He always said that Santa Rosa could be the Makati of the South,” shares Leon’s daughter and now Santa Rosa City mayor Arlene B. Arcillas.

Three years since its conversion, Santa Rosa reached a P1 billion income; now, ten years later, the income has doubled to P2.2 billion. Arcillas attributes this growth to the influx of both local and foreign investors, locators, and residents that flocked the city in the past years.

It also helped that as soon as she took office in 2007, Arcillas initiated a computerization project that integrates the collections of the treasury, business permits, and assessor offices. This system raised tax collection efficiency to 95 percent, a 20-percent jump from the manual method.

The computerization project has been recognized as a best practice by the Department of Finance and Arcillas also believes that it is one of the reasons why she received the Presidential Lingkod Ng Bayan Award – the highest award given to public officials and employees by the Civil Service Commission and Office of the President. “The project is still ongoing and revenues should increase and result to better delivery of social services to the people,” notes Arcillas.

Serene residences, thriving economy

Santa Rosa is home to four PEZA-accredited economic zones, namely Laguna Technopark, Inc., Greenfield Auto Park, Santa Rosa IT Park, and the Toyota Special Economic Zone. Major corporations like Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc., Monde Nissin Corp., San Miguel Brewery, and Magnolia have also settled its headquarters here. In addition, world-class leisure centers Enchanted Kingdom and Santa Elena Golf Club are found here as well.

A major economic driver in the city, though, is the car manufacturing industry. Dubbed as the “Motor City of the Philippines”, Santa Rosa is host to Toyota Motors Philippines, Honda Cars Philippines, Nissan Motors Philippines, and Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation (which will transfer to the city in 2015) – all contributing 95 percent of the country’s automotive production.

Santa Rosa is also looking to be the next hub for the BPO industry. It is currently ranked 82nd in the world for its competitiveness in the Information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing services (IT-BPO) by the leading strategic advisory firm, THOLONS.

Aside from the thriving economy, what makes many want to live here are the master-planned communities and the peace and order that the city government guarantees its residents. Nuvali has recently made a buzz as one of Ayala Land’s newest large-scale live-work-play developments. Also rising are the Lucio Tan Group of Companies’ 1,000-hectare Eton City and Greenfield Development Corporation’s 300-hectare Greenfield City.

The city’s efforts that allowed its transformation have not gone unrecognized. Throughout the years it received awards from various organizations, most notable of which are for peace and order and disaster preparedness, health and nutrition, and for its local government unit.


Celebrating a milestone

In celebration of its tenth anniversary, Santa Rosa has a line-up of programs, the highlight of which is the “Lion Awards for Business”. As it does each year, the city government will honor the investors and top taxpayers, who are responsible for making the city what it is. This year, however, is special as it will see the debut of the lion trophy, the new symbol of the city.

Needless to say, Arcillas is very happy about what Santa Rosa has achieved. “I am most proud of what it is right now. From a very small community, we turned into this,” she says. “People from other areas want to be here. Developers feel like they can build a dream community here.”

She further notes that she also takes pride in the city’s unity: “Here, the community, city government and investors have a symbiotic relationship.” To her, this synergy is key, stating, “Ever since my administration, it’s all about participatory governance. We govern and administer according to how the people wanted.”

Now on her last term, Arcillas plans to implement a system to sustain what the city has started and ensure that constituents and investors who are satisfied now will remain satisfied in the future. “After the next ten years, I want them to say the same thing,” she ends, “that they like living here because it’s the place they dreamed of.”

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