Tuesday, September 1, 2009

18th Mindanao Business Conference (MINBIZCON)

The biggest annual gathering of business and industry leaders, government policy makers and other stakeholders, the 18th Mindanao Business Conference (MINBIZCON) was hosted by the South Cotabato Chamber of Commerce & Industry Foundation Inc. last September 17-18, 2009 at the Fit Mart Mall Convention Center, Koronadal City, South Cotabato.

This year’s theme, “One. Global. Filipino. Rising Above the Global Challenges,” emphasized the Mindanao’s Business community’s vision to move ahead and further strengthen its alliance with global partners.

US Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney and Edgardo Lacson, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), led the opening ceremonies. Kenney delivered her keynote address on the first day and reiterated her government’s continued support to Mindanao’s development initiatives. She held a press conference thereafter.

Members of the American Chamber of Commerce also came to seek prospects in the southern Philippines. The American government has been supporting Mindanao through various socio-economic programs in the past several years, funded through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) is one of the projects being implemented under the oversight of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo).

Aside from the United States delegation, officials and businessmen from Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines – East-Asean Growth Areas (BIMP-EAGA) Region also attended the event.

National Government officials invited to speak at the event were Senators Francis G. Escudero, Edgardo G. Angara, Francis N. Pangilinan, Loren B. Legarda and Manuel B. Villar Jr.

Also present were Mr. Gabby Cui, PLDT-SME Community Consultancy Head; Haji Ismail Damit, Business Council Executive Vice Chair, BIMP-EAGA; Hon. Fernando Q. Miguel, Mayor, Koronadal City; Bashir D. Rasuman, DPWH; Robert Anthony Te, Holcim Cement, Peter J. Forrestal, Chairman, Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), Jose Alejandro, PCCI, Jonathan De Luzuriaga, Industry Affairs Director, Business Processing Association of the Philippines; Atty. Ferdinand L. Hernandez, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority; Hon. Daisy P. Avance Fuentes, Governor, South Cotabato; Prof. Ma. Lourdes A. Sereno, Executive Director, Asian Institute of Management Policy Center; and Dr. Victor B. Endriga.

As stated by Carlito Y. Uy, South Cotabato Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc. (SCCCIF) president and business conference director, discussions focused on improving the island's agriculture, trade, tourism and energy, infrastructure and information and communications technology potentials.

Other major concerns were the imminent power shortage feared to hit Mindanao and the private-public partnership initiatives to improve local government units' revenue generation measures. Speakers also discussed legislative reforms to benefit the Mindanao business sector and a special report on the status of priority infrastructure projects in the island.

Business leaders and policymakers also tackled the country’s commitment to the tariffs and trade agreements in the Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA). The AFTA was scheduled to implement the reduction of tariff of all products by 2010.

The topics were grouped into four quadrants. Quadrant 1 tackled “Legislative Reforms to Benefit Mindanao Business.” Quadrant 2 dealt on the issue “International Trade Cooperation and Mindanao’s Competitive Edge in Agriculture”. These included Plenary Sessions on Trade, Agriculture and Infrastructure. Quadrant 3 talked about “Pump-priming Mindanao’s economy through focus industries”. Plenary sessions discussed Mining, Energy, ICT and Tourism. Finally, Quadrant 4 focused on “Mindanao’s Public-Private partnership to improve LGU Revenue Generation”.

At the end of the conference, business leaders in the southern Philippines were to present to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a set of integrated policy agenda containing the vision of the Mindanao business community to catapult the island to greater economic heights. The submission to the President of the Mindanao 2009 Business Policy Agenda was supposed to be the highlight of the two-day conference.

Unfortunately, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was invited as keynote closing speaker, declined the invitation due to previous commitments. She designated Trade Undersecretary Merly M. Cruz to represent her instead.

While the plenary sessions were set at the Fit Mart Mall Convention Center, The Trade and Expo Fair which opened on September 14 was located at the Supermarket Area, Atrium, and 2nd floor of the same mall. It featured around 50 exhibitors from the following sectors: Tourism, Information and Communications Technology, Franchising, Foods and Crafts, Services, LGU Investment Desk, Corporate Showcases, Institutional Support Services, among others. Leading the pack of companies showcasing their products was General Santos City-based conglomerate RD Corp., which is into fishing, real estate banking and pawnshop, among others. The fair lasted until September 20.

The Department of Trade & Industry of Region 12 (DTI-12) also facilitated an investment matching on September 18, which generated a total of P601 million investment commitments. Investment areas included production of cardava banana, moringa or malunggay, fresh water shrimp or ulang, barako coffee and hotel development.

Attended by over 500 participants, MINBIZCON’s main goal was to attract investments in resource-rich Mindanao. The event was organized by South Cotabato Chamber of Commerce & Industry Foundation Inc. (SCCCIF), South Cotabato, and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry in partnership with Dole Philippines Inc., Department of Trade and Industry, and Business World.

MINBIZCON was sponsored by City of Koronadal, US AID, Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM), Department of Tourism, PLDT SME-Nation, Sagittarius Mines, Inc. (SMI), Holcim Cement, Banco De Oro, Foton Motor Philippines, Harbor Centre Port Terminal Inc. and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

For more information on MINBIZCON, visit their official event website http://www.southcotchamber.com/18thminbizcon/index.php courtesy of the South Cotabato Chamber of Commerce.


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