Tuesday 28 October 2014

Sylvia Tay - Interview with BusinessMirror, Philippines

MANY may think the life of a diplomat’s wife is all parties and cocktails. That is farthest from the truth if you ask Sylvia Tay, wife of Belgian Ambassador Roland van Remoortele. Tay, who is an active supporter of Activistar, a private-sector advocacy group in Singapore. If you ask her what keeps her busy nowadays, she would tell you that she has a full calendar meeting with local officials, governments agencies, schools and private companies in an effort to drum up participation and support for the City Beautiful Manila-Young Mayor Competition to be held in Singapore in April 2015.

The contest is an international township-planning competition that taps high-school and university students to develop plans to improve sustainability within a target city. Activistar has been running the competition for the past four years, and for its fifth year, it trains its attention on the city of Manila. Previous cities that have been the focus of this competition include Hanoi, Iskandar Malaysia and Yangon. Tay says Singapore has been actively campaigning itself as a city with good integrated urban planning.  Tay says the group has identified Manila as its focus for next year’s competition since it is the premier city in the Philippines. “We felt that people should look at Manila and make it a case study and see what can be done to encourage the local government to do something,” she explains. “Every time tourists come to the Philippines, they pass through the Naia [Ninoy Aquino International Airport] on their way to Boracay or Cebu or elsewhere. Everybody gives the city of Manila a miss. Yet, it’s a pity because it is where your origins started. You have Quiapo and Chinatown, which were both centers of commerce in the past. Even in Tondo, they have uncovered ancient relics. Something can still be done to attract tourists to stay in Manila, to improve business and to make it a city that is enjoyable for its residents.”

A number of companies have already signed up to support the effort. Sponsors of the township competition include ABB, AES Philippines, The Mind Museum, and Bases Conversion and Development Authority, as well as the Office of the City Mayor of Manila, the Department of Education and the  Department of Tourism. The CLC in Singapore has supported the effort for the past four years.

For inquiries about sponsorship, e-mail sylvia.van.remoortele@activistar.com.

Joseph Cortes
Image Credits: Alysa Salen

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