ZAMBOANGA CITY (Ulysses Israel / 31 Aug) Zamboanga City takes center stage Thursday as it hosts the 15th Mindanao Business Conference wherein Mindanao’s economic and business leaders will sell Zamboanga Peninsula and the island of Mindanao as the next investment destination for foreign investors looking for expansion in the Southeast Asian Region.
“We would like to strategically position Zamboanga and Mindanao in the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines –East Asia Growth Area) region and we would like to project a positive image to the world,” Romeo J. Serra, 15th MinBizCon conference chairman, told the Mindanao Examiner.
“There’s a lot of going in Mindanao, especially in Zamboanga,” he said, as he pointed out that though the region may be suffering from “a negative image”, now is the time to come and see for them selves what the region has to offer.
The three-day 15th MinBizCon celebrates the theme:” Mindanao: The Best of the Philippines”.
Aside from featuring the product winners that Mindanao has to offer, the conference will put forward a more dynamic interaction of key players from both public and private sector on key priorities for Mindanao such as greater awareness for a federal system of government, revitalization of the minerals industry and strengthening the small and medium enterprises.
Expected to attend are business leaders and economic managers from the country as well as foreign investors from Japan, Canada, China, Australia, South Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, Italy, and countries of the ASEAN region.
According to Serra, who is also the chairman of the Mindanao Business Council (MBC) and the vice-president of Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) for Mindanao, the island can boast of tourism destinations that have never been tapped but are comparable to world-class tourist spots like Boracay.
The business sector, he said, is confident that Zamboanga region will get the attention it deserves being strategically located in the BIMP-EAGA region and rich in mineral resources.
“If you look at the map, you can see that Zamboanga City is strategically located in the BIMP-EAGA region, and the location itself will lure the investors. Add to that is its being a resource rich region,” he said.
He said the MBC is advocating for the revitalization of the minerals industry considered as the “hope of the Philippine economy”.
“We have touched only the surface” as far as exploitation of the vast mineral resources in Mindanao is concerned, he said.
He said Mindanao is host to about 60 percent of the country’s total mineral deposits. Zamboanga Peninsula is currently hosting one of the largest mining operations in the country.
The Canadian-mining firm TVI Resource and Development is currently operating mining gold and silver in Canatuan Mountain in Siocon town in Zamboanga del Norte. The Canadian firm has been operating since 1997.
He said mining is one of the concerns that will dominate discussions during the business summit.
Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Peter Henrie Sutherland will be one of the key speakers in the opening ceremony to be held today in the afternoon.
There are at least three mining-related topics that are scheduled for discussion, namely: Mining Prospects in Mindanao: Where and What by Graciano P. Yumul, Jr. Undersecretary of the Department of Science and Technology; Mineral Development and the Mindanao Economy by Paul G. Domiguez, president of Sagitarius Mines; and Sustainable and Responsible Mining in Mindanao by Florencio Kennedy Coronel, director of Social Commitment of TVI Pacific, Inc.
Another major industry that will be given priority during the business conference, Serra said, is the seaweeds industry.
The Mindanao Business Council has partnered with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group, he said, to rehabilitate and strengthen the seaweeds industry in Zamboanga Peninsula.
He said the IFC has put up an office in Davao City to closely work with the stakeholders of the seaweeds industry in Mindanao, including the island provinces of Basilan, Tawi-tawi and Sulu where seaweed farming has recently been flourishing.
He revealed that IFC has hired a seaweed expert to become the consultant for the project. He said Mindanao supplies 80 percent of the country’s total raw materials of seaweeds and also supplies 60 percent of the world’s total production.
The primary objective of the project, he said, is the ultimate development of the seaweed industry and the setting up of seaweed processing plant in Zamboanga City.
This backward and forward integration of the seaweeds business operations will have to take into account the role of the seaweed farmers who are presently being placed at a disadvantage position.
The concerns of the seaweeds industry will also be one of the major focuses of discussion during the plenary dialogue in the MinBizCon, he said.