RECOGNITION. The trophies received by the City of Bacolod as Top Philippine Model City for 2019 (center), as well as Business-Friendly/High Returns and Retirement Haven, at The Manila Times Search for the Philippine Model Cities and Municipalities. The awards were received by Mayor Evelio Leonardia and other city officials in rites held at the New World Manila Bay Hotel on Wednesday afternoon (Sept. 25, 2019). (Photo courtesy of Bacolod City PIO)

BACOLOD CITY -- The City of Bacolod was awarded the Top Philippine Model City for the second time after besting 37 other cities shortlisted by The Manila Times in the 2019 Search for the Philippine Model Cities and Municipalities.

The “City of Smiles”, which first won during the inaugural search in 2017, reclaimed the champion’s trophy after losing to Davao City in 2018. Bacolod also received the special awards Business-Friendly/High Returns and Retirement Haven.

Mayor Evelio Leonardia, who received the awards in rites held at the New World Manila Bay Hotel on Wednesday afternoon, gave credit to the “team effort” of the city officials and the people of Bacolod as he wished that the recognition would reverberate to other cities.

“We hope to see the day that the standards The Manila Times has established for Bacolod and the rest of us, will become the standards of model cities in the Philippines because once we have model cities, we will also have a model country,” Leonardia said in a statement on Thursday.

General Trias City led by Mayor Antonio Ferrer was named first runner-up while Ormoc City headed by Mayor Richard Gomez was declared second runner-up.

The Top Philippine Model Municipalities were Liloan (Cebu), champion; Guiguinto (Bulacan), first runner-up; and Pulilan (Bulacan), second runner-up.

Looking back, Leonardia said the city’s first award in 2017 became a source of inspiration for Bacolod following his return to the City Hall after serving as a congressman for one term.

“The award then became our guidance and standard and became an inspiration for us to dream bigger dreams,” he said, citing the other recognitions received by Bacolod, such as for being business-friendly from the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and “Most Competitive City in the Visayas” as declared by the National Competitiveness Council.

“In giving us this award, The Manila Times has played a vital role in Bacolod’s march to progress and development,” said Leonardia, who is the national president of the League of Cities of the Philippines.

The Manila Times’ “Philippine Model Cities” is a forum that aims to recognize effective and innovative local governance that improves the quality of life and make local business environments friendlier.

This year’s board of judges is composed of lawyer Eleanor Roque; head of Tax Advisory and Compliance Division of P&A Grant Thornton, as chairperson; internationally renowned Filipino urban planner Architect Felino “Jun” Palafox Jr.; Shiela Lobien, chief executive officer of Lobien Realty Group; Angeline Tham, chief executive officer of Angkas;  Loren Sales, vice president for Market of Phirdt Park Homes; and Rose Bosch-Ong, senior executive vice president of Wilcon Depot. (PNA)