|Mindanao Chambers Look to Strengthen Role in Investment Facilitation|
CEBU CITY—Chambers of commerce in Mindanao should take a stronger role in drawing trade and investment to their respective areas.
This was the consensus among the Mindanao chamber officials who attended a “cross-learning” seminar organized in Cebu City by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), and the U. S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program.
The seminar drew executives from established chambers of commerce in Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Zamboanga, as well as from smaller, newer chambers, from the provinces of Sarangani and Surigao and the cities of Butuan, Pagadian and Kidapawan. Representatives from Naga, Iloilo, and Cebu business chambers also attended the activity.
Participants exchanged best practices on chamber revenue generation, policy advocacy, and trade and investment facilitation, focusing on the successful experience of the Cebu Investment Promotion Center.
“We are in the process of reviewing our city’s investment code, and it was particularly useful to learn more about Cebu’s highly focused approach,” said Raymund Salangsang, president of the General Santos City chamber.
“GenSan has well-established fisheries, agriculture and IT sectors that bring in business, but we really should distinguish between domestic and foreign investors and their differing requirements,” Salangsang said.
He also proposed a more subregional approach towards attracting investors.
“Some industries cannot be contained in just one city,” Salangsang said. “GenSan is already the commercial and transport hub for surrounding provinces, so why not help businesses to locate or expand there? It works out to everyone’s benefit.”
“We looked at our respective strengths rather than try to replicate what other cities are doing,” said Mercedes Lourdes Quisumbing, president of the Pagadian City-Zamboanga del Sur Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc.
“We are a small city in a highly agricultural area, with only a small wharf, but with established supply routes to Cebu and Cagayan de Oro,” Quisumbing pointed out.
“Rather than focus on direct exports, we studied how we fit into the supply chain,” Quisumbing said. “Given our large coconut production base, for example, there are opportunities for investors in coco semi-processing.”
The Mindanao chambers are currently working with local governments and national line agencies to develop investment databases for their respective areas.
This would include information on available raw materials, people support, costs of doing business, investment incentives, and other economic and market information.
“Some local governments are still not aware of the extent to which their chambers of commerce can help bring in investment,” said Quisumbing. “There has to be a good working relationship between the business community and government to make sure everyone is on the same investment track.”
Public-private collaboration is expected to be further bolstered by the recent agreement between PCCI and the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) to share resources and technical expertise to promote investment.
This builds on an earlier partnership agreement between the two organizations to jointly formulate policy recommendations for enhancing the competitiveness of key economic sectors.
For chamber executives at the Cebu seminar, however, it was clear that a supportive policy framework will best succeed in attracting business to a particular area if its local stakeholders—both government and the private sector—work together to identify and strengthen their comparative advantages.
“Do the groundwork first. That’s the key to getting investors,” Quisumbing said.
Published in Malaya, April 12, 2012; Sun Star Cagayan, April 2, 2012