Considered a key to progressive Philippines, the island region of Mindanao poses continued if not an unprecedented growth for the country, said Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade at the recently held BDO Economic Forum in Davao.
The forum, which carried the theme “Progressive Philippines”, was attended by nearly 600 Davao-based businessmen who bank with BDO.
Citing a World Bank study, Sec. Tugade said efforts to further grow the economy will be futile unless Mindanao is developed alongside the other regions. And progress, he added, cannot be achieved without first and foremost – infrastructure.
“Every nation, every country, every region that has experienced growth and development is always predicated on the kinds of plans it has on infrastructure. And therefore, we say, unequivocally, you want development, let’s have infrastructure. And therefore, we say, you want development in infrastructure, you do it also with Mindanao,” he said during his keynote speech.
Under the Duterte administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program, Sec. Tugade said the infrastructure masterplan for Mindanao include expansion and modernization of various airports, seaports, and maritime facilities, the development of the Mindanao Railway System, and the modernization of the region’s public transportation system which will pilot test in Davao. All these are part of the P7-trillion budget the government has allocated for infrastructure spending until 2022.
For instance, he said, airports in Cotabato, Dipolog, Ozamis, and Pagadian are underway to be night-rated, which means people and cargo can travel to and from these locations even during the night. Sec. Tugade added another welcome development is the ground-breaking of the Bukidnon airport, which may happen by the end of the year and the near completion of the Cagayan de Oro Port new passenger terminal, which will be the country’s biggest with a capacity of 3,000 passengers.
These infrastructure projects were welcomed by the invited panelists, namely, Edgar Saavedra, chairman of the Megawide Construction Corporation, Vince Perez, Founder and CEO of Alter Energy Partners, Ed Francisco, President of BDO Capital and Investment Corporation, the investment banking arm of BDO Unibank, and Tomas Lorenzo, president and CEO of Torre Lorenzo Development Corp.
In lauding the efforts of the government, Lorenzo, a Mindanao native said, future investments in the region should also include education, technical and vocational education, in particular, to address the growing shortage in skilled workers. Based on experience, he said his company has to import skilled workers from Manila and Cebu, where many have relocated for a higher pay. He added the issue of perception should also be addressed, as Mindanao is “very healthy, wealthy and with Martial Law, safe”.
Meanwhile, Perez, a former secretary of the Department of Energy, said increasing the power capacity in Mindanao is also key to sustaining growth in the region especially now that infrastructure projects are in full swing. He cited the region’s electricity consumption last year already grew 6.9 percent, faster than the national average. Higher consumption is expected as more businesses are expected to be put up with improved infrastructure. Perez added increased power capacity also presents more opportunities to Mindanaoans. “This is the concept of latent demand. The more you bring capacity to a rural community, the more they want to consume.”
Saavedra for his part underscored the importance of having a good working relationship with the government to avoid delays in the implementation of infra projects, thus called for the cooperation and support of the current administration.
Speaking on behalf of BDO, Francisco, meanwhile, committed support to both the government and the private sector. “We’re really here to support everyone, the SMEs, as well as the MSME. We intend to be there to assist in their growth. BDO has various subsidiaries to support them because the objective really is the trickledown effect.”