Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Basilan Traders Complain Of Poor Power Supply, Bad Publicity

BASILAN ISLAND (Lowell Vallecer / 27 Jun) SME and industry leaders in Basilan got their chance to speak with Undersecretary Carissa Cruz-Evangelista, of the Department of Trade and Industry - Regional Operations Group on pressing issues and concerns they said were affecting business on the island province, south of Mindanao.

In the Philippines, an SME is defined as any business activity or enterprise engaged in industry, agriculture, or services whether single proprietorship, cooperative, partnership, or corporation.

Evangelista was in Lamitan as guest speakers in the 5th ARMM Business Conference which ended Tuesday. She requested for an audience with SME and other industry leaders on Basilan to know their sentiments on issues affecting their business.

Among the concerns raised by the groups were the frequent blackouts and power fluctuation most on the island, and the negative image Basilan is often associated with -- the Abu Sayyaf.

Andy Anoos, a local trader and former councilor of Lamitan town, said the erratic power supply is affecting the business on the island. He said many processing plants were operating well below the optimal level and that public and private offices were also largely affected by the poor electric supply from an offshore power barge.

"The long term solution if Basilan is to realize its full economic potential is to connect the island to the Mindanao power grid via a submarine power cable. Basilan right now gets its electricity from a power barge," Anoos said.

Evangelista said she would bring the matter to the attention of the national government.

Jann Jakilan, of the Autonomous Basilan Chamber (ABICCI), and Datu Haron Bandila, of the ARMM Business Council Foundation, also raised the issue of bad media publicity about the island and both expressed concern of the lingering image of the province as a haven for terrorists, despite its current peaceful situation.

"This bad image of Basilan is one of the primary reasons why many businessmen shy away from investing here," Jakilan said.

Many traders also complained of high shipping and freight rates for products, such as rubber and copra, from Basilan to Zamboanga City. Dick Brown, a councilor in Isabela City, said the high rates of shipping and freight charges have affected many traders and urged the DTI and other agencies to look into the matter.

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