The potential of Visayas-Mindanao (Vis-Min) for economic growth has been on the rise, especially since the commencement of the current administration to advocate development in the rural regions of that part of the country.
The Visayas region boasts of many of the country’s white sand beaches and waterfalls. Several business hubs are also found in this region, making it a prime destination for both BPOs and tourism enterprises, among others.
Mindanao is a mountainous island and is touted as the “Food Basket of the Philippines”; blessed with fertile soil suitable for food production and agri-business. The island accounts for a majority of the country’s pineapple, banana, and coffee production.
Numerous exporters, BPOs, real estate developers, food-chain enterprises, retail brands, and car companies have already set up shop in the “Vis-Min” area even prior to the current administration’s policies but there are still plenty of opportunities for growth in the fields of agriculture, food processing, and service-related industries. Fiscal support has always been concentrated in the National Capital Region, to the disadvantage of these other regions so new investments in Vis-Min are crucial to support its economic viability. To encourage investors, it would help to learn about what Vis-Min has to offer, particularly in the major urban areas like Metro Cebu and Davao.
Available commercial and residential spaces. There are available office spaces in Cebu and Davao business districts. Cebu is already catering to some IT and BPO companies around the Asiatown IT Park while Davao has Damosa IT Park, Matina IT Park, and SM Lanang Premiere IT Center, among others. There are, likewise, available residential spaces for the convenience of professionals and expatriates employed in the area. Property developers are looking to build more projects in the Vis-Min area in response to the growing demand within these regions. An Iloilo Business Park is already underway that can host BPOs, hotels, malls, and condominiums. A planned Business Park in Bohol will also commence operating very soon. Dumaguete is likewise developing its own outsourcing industry aside from being marketed as a premier retirement destination.
Sufficient talent pool. Qualified human resources are readily available owing to the high number of college graduates from reputable Vis-Min universities. The available labor force is as competent and proficient in English as those found in Metro Manila. In fact, Cebu hosts one of the largest English schools in the country that caters mainly to foreign students.
Proximity of Schools. Quality education which produces capable human resource is also accessible in Vis-Min. Some of the top universities include University of San Carlos in Cebu, Ateneo de Davao University, West Visayas State University in Iloilo, University of St. La Salle in Bacolod, Mindanao State University in Iligan, University of San Agustin in Iloilo, Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro, and Silliman University in Dumaguete.
Satellite government offices. Government offices such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have satellite offices in the major cities in Cebu and Davao that are capable of processing applications for start-up businesses.
Ideal work environment. Business districts in the Vis-Min area are not as crowded as those in the National Capital Region. They even offer accessibility to transportation, a variety of retail and restaurant outlets, entertainment places, and residential areas on a smaller scale, making them attractive to professionals. Cebu and Davao, for example, have the best of both city and provincial life. They have booming tourism and continuous influx of BPO companies.
Increased consumer spending. According to a study made by Kantar Worldpanel, a leader in consumer knowledge and insights, Vis-Min surpassed the spending rate in Luzon from 2014 to 2016. Vis-Min’s spending growth in terms of food, beverage, and household care is significantly higher compared to that of Luzon’s. This data can be interpreted as an untapped potential in the regions for many enterprising companies looking to expand their market coverage.
Relevant Infrastructure. Major cities in Vis-Min have cemented roads, access to internet, available communications system, and information technology. In Cebu, the construction of the new Mactan International Airport is already in progress as well as the Cebu-Cordova bridge project. There are also the planned Bus Rapid Transit and other transportation options. In Davao, there are plans for the seaport expansion, development of the Sta. Ana wharf, as well as the Mindanao Railway Project. In Bohol, the Panglao International Airport is already under construction and expected to be fully functional by early 2018.
Accessibility. Most of the cities in the Vis-Min regions are only an hour flight from Metro Manila. Moreover, there are now international flights direct to and from Cebu and Davao. There are direct flights to Japan, Taiwan, Dubai and Los Angeles from Cebu and direct flights to Singapore and other Asian destinations from Davao. Vis-Min airports are also strategically located a little farther away from the major cities in contrast to the already congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport. These are also close to popular beach destinations such as Mactan in Cebu, Panglao in Bohol, and Samal in Davao.
Economic Zones. Vis-Min has several economic zones that provide incentives to qualified locators. To name a few, there are the Mactan Economic Processing Zone in Cebu, the AJMR Agro-Industrial Economic Zone in Davao, and Zamboecozone in Zamboanga. These zones cover various sectors like manufacturing, tourism, agro-industry, business process outsourcing, and information technology.
Support of Business Organizations. The presence of various organizations such as Cebu Educational Development Foundation for Information Technology (CEDFIT), Chamber of Commerce in Cebu, and Davao, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (FINEX), showed that this area is dedicated to support businesses and provide information on opportunities and events link business to needed resources.
New investments would not only accelerate the Vis-Min’s growth but would also indirectly benefit the people in the rural areas by providing more job opportunities that will in turn further local businesses. National agencies and local government units must increase their efforts to develop Vis-Min’s attractiveness as an investment destination by improving its business environment primarily through the upgrade of the region’s infrastructure and by resolving issues related to security and safety in their areas.
The author is a tax manager at the Cebu and Davao Branches of Punongbayan & Araullo, a leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing services firm and is the Philippine member of Grant Thornton International Ltd.
As published in Mindanao Times, dated on 30 May 2017