Philippine mayors shop for US sister cities

Posted at 03/19/2012 12:33 PM | Updated as of 03/19/2012 11:33 PM

WASHINGTON D.C.  City mayors in the Philippines want to partner with their counterparts in the United States to boost people-to-people ties that could speed up exchanges and investments.
 
Alaminos, Pangasinan Mayor Hernani Braganza, Secretary General of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) met last week with officials of the DC-based United States Conference of Mayors, including Mayor Vincent Gray.
 
“We will hold initial discussions with them for a possible formal relationship with the Conference of Mayors,” he explained.
 
He had come from Hawaii where city executives led by LCP president and San Fernando, Pampanga Mayor Oscar Rodriguez participated in a workshop that tackled disaster preparedness, tourism and juvenile justice, among others.
 
Dozens of Philippine cities, mostly the bigger population centers, already have sister city relationships with US cities. Braganza suggested it was time for the LCP to forge an arrangement at the level of the Conference of Mayors.  
 
Many of the US cities that have ties to Philippine cities have significant Filipino American populations. The vast majority of them are in the West Coast, Braganza observed.
 
The LCP is an umbrella of 122 cities, representing over 40 million Filipinos. The Conference is composed of more than 1,200 US cities with a population of 30,000 or more.
 
The sister city relationship became especially relevant when flashfloods killed over 1,400 people in northern Mindanao last December. Among the hardest hit was Cagayan de Oro City and its sister city of Norfolk, Virginia was among the first to mobilize support for victims.
 
Makati Mayor Jejomar “Junjun” Binay Jr. explained during a visit here last year that they have received valuable help from their sister city of Los Angeles, especially in police and emergency services training.
 
That relationship could have added importance because Los Angeles, California Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is the current president of the Conference of Mayors.
 
Braganza, whose city has a sister city arrangement with West Sacramento, California said they are especially interested with the disaster and emergency response infrastructure in American cities. “The 911 system is something we want to study so we can come up with a common standard for all our cities,” he explained.
 
Alaminos, host to the famed Hundred Islands tourist spot, is building an airport that could make the city an air transport hub in the region. Braganza said they rescued the Hundred Islands from illegal fishing but face the mounting threat of global warming that’s being blamed for severe weather in much of the world.
 
“The US may be high-tech and well-prepared but in the case of Honolulu, which is a sister city of many cities in Pangasinan, they have only one major calamity a year; in the Philippines we have an average of 20, and that’s just the typhoons. We’re not even talking about earthquakes and floods,” Braganza noted.
 
“In Honolulu they have sirens all over to warn the people and certain software like the 911 that could make life easier; so if we can partner with US cities not only in terms of knowledge-sharing but also the transfer of software applications, we can set a national standard among Philippine cities,” he added.
 
Braganza said through these alliances, they can help Americans navigate the investment bureaucracy in Philippine cities.
 
That was precisely part of their agenda during a separate meeting with the ASEAN-US Business Council here.
 
“We explained the process of securing business permits; we briefed them about the regional development councils and how President Aquino has given mayors more power to discuss specific topics like investment opportunities, sharing the national budget especially for infrastructure,” he averred.
 
Braganza also met with California Reps. Laura Richardson (37th district), Judy Chu (32nd District) and Xavier Becerra (31st District); and Eni Faleomavaega (American Samoa).