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Governance challenges for Baguio City's creative economy.

Declared as a Unesco Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art in 2017, Baguio City officially joined the Unesco Creative Cities Network (UCCN) with its current membership of 180 cities in 72 countries.

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the New Urban Agenda serve as impetus for this Unesco initiative, whose goals strike at the core of urban renewal envisioned to arise from the cultural and socioeconomic progress brought by creative industries.

Defined by Unesco as 'sectors of organized activity whose principal purpose is the production or reproduction, promotion, distribution and/or commercialization of goods, services and activities of a cultural, artistic or heritage-related nature,' creative industries power the currently evolving global Creative Economy.

This Creative Economy is global yet anchored on the local as it fuses culture with commerce. It pulls within its ambit of influence no less than a lifeworld shaping our life chances as a nation.

Indeed, the nation becomes a consolidating agent. The base of a Creative Economy is culture, and we derive our culture's richness together with our uniqueness as individuals from our nation. Our shared history and meanings with our ways of thinking and doing form a common pool resource, where we Filipinos can each draw our innovative capacities for building our creative industries.

And here, we see that the road toward a prosperous Philippine Creative Economy-this impressive brand called 'Creative Philippines' that we offer globally, has to be paved with cutting-edge Filipino mind work.

This is mind work distinctly ours, thus underscoring high-level education and training for the Filipino creative artist. Tied with this as self-evident is upward mobility for value creation. Most of all, our citizenry requires the social imperatives enriching of its collective creative source: our national culture.

Note, however, that the Unesco Creative City declaration poses governance challenges not just for Baguio City but for the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) as well. Baguio City acts as the hub of creativity pulsating to and from the peripheral localities of Benguet and the rest of the Cordillera. The Cordillera region is intrinsic to this creative culture as well as economy and, therefore, a regional perspective for development planning is rendered inevitable.

Governance as a nonhierarchical mode of directing collective action depends on a network of stakeholders for success, based on shared accountability. It renders the government with its agencies as nodes connected to other nodes from business and civil society-and these node connections form a spread, that is, a flat organization placing high value on cooperation for development.

This development cooperation from as many stakeholders shifts attention toward the effective political scale that can facilitate this inclusiveness. And, following subsidiarity, it comprises our smallest viable units-from the barangays to their municipalities onto the regions. Hence, this governance detaches from the center as enabled by decentralization.

Therefore, we have to ask, can the current governance framework based on the Local Government Code respond to the demands of being a Creative City? Is there an institutionalized mechanism that may facilitate coordination among city and national government agencies together with other stakeholders from business, civil society and the general public?

At the regional level, what could be the role of the CAR in this Creative City developmental trajectory? How does the CAR facilitate linkages between its various local governments? And for Baguio City, how is it a catalyst of local and regional development?

Crucially, the Creative Economy as decentralized governance of creative industries highlights the urban space-regenerating cities as creative hubs linked into a network. This means creative city hubs linked nationwide for a 'Creative Philippines.' While for its largest political scale, the UCCN acts as one such agent pushing for global Creative City linkages, thus connoting international relations at the municipal level among other institutional requirements for development cooperation.

As a Unesco Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art, Baguio City presently assumes being our country's premier test case. As a social laboratory for a Creative Economy, Baguio City unravels our institutional infrastructure for harnessing creativity in our local and regional economies and for establishing city linkages at both national and global levels.

Clearly, Baguio City and CAR can greatly benefit from having institutional links with other Unesco creative cities, such as Incheon, Melbourne and Berlin. Needless to say, establishing these linkages within the present decentralization legal framework is likewise a serious

governance challenge.

In her opening message at ENTACool: 2018 Baguio Creative Festival on November 10, Lila Shahani, the secretary-general of the Philippine National Commission to Unesco, warned that the creative city designation is in peril of being withdrawn 'when the local government and the community do not sustain, protect and nurture-in short: take responsibility for and invest in-the creative environment that led to the Unesco designation in the first place.'

Therefore, these governance challenges enumerated here must be addressed with utmost urgency.
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Publication:Business Mirror (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Dec 12, 2018
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