Feature: The mega plan for growth and investment in Central Philippines
By Minerva BC Newman
Cebu City (6 October) -- The government today is in "mega" spirits as it presented its most comprehensive strategic projects in the five super regions to leaders of the business community and the private sector during a Government Infrastructure Forum held in Makati City recently.
The forum aims at establishing possible avenues of collaboration between the government and private sector to fast-track the implementation of development initiatives that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo outlined in her State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 24, 2006.
The Central Philippines Development Plan and Investment Program on the other hand were presented and discussed in the meetings of the regional development Council (RDC-7 Sectoral Committees held between September 6-15; at the committees on Development Administration e (DAC) and Economic Development (EDC) on September 7 and 15 respectively. The Social Development Committee on its part, agreed to create a technical working group to look into the social implication and impact of the programs and projects and to propose policies, safety nets to cushion any negative impacts.
As all these developed, the five super regions in Central Philippines have started to consolidate their growth and investment forces and potentials for possible strategic participation of the foreign and business sectors in the implementation and completion of these major development projects.
To lay out the development blueprint, Malacanang issued EO 561 in August 2006 ordering the creation of the "super regions" and designating super-regional development champions. The five super regions with their champions are as follows:
(1) Northern Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle (NLAQ)-it is composed of regions CAR; 1 & 2; and the northern part of the provinces of Aurora (north Baler); Tarlac (north of Tarlac City); Nueva Ecija (north of Cabanatuan City); and Zambales (north of Subic) with its champion, PMS Director General Arthur Yap.
(2) Luzon Urban Beltway (LUB) - it is composed of the NCR; regions 4A, and the provinces of Bulacan, Bataan, Pampanga, Mindoro, Marinduque and the southern part of the provinces of Tarlac, Zambales, aurora, and Nueva Ecija with its champion, Subic-Clark Alliance for Development Chairman Edgardo Pamintuan.
(3) Central Philippines - composed of regions 5, 6, 7 and 8; the provinces of Romblon, Palawan, and Camiguin and the Island of Siargao with its champion, DOT Secretary Joseph Ace Durano and Secretary Remonde as the Cabinet Officer for Regional development of Region VII.
(4) Agribusiness Mindanao - composed of regions 9, 10 (except Camiguin); 11, 12, Caraga (except Siargao) and ARMM with its champion, Presidential Adviser for Peace process jesus Dureza. (5) Cyber Corridor - which traverses the above "super" regions from Baguio to Cebu to Davao with its champion, Commission on Information and Communication Technology Chairman Ramon Sales.
To implement the vision and development strategies of the Central Philippines super region, the 5 NEDA Regional Offices of the Central Philippines came up with an investment program using their respective RDC-approved Regional Development Investment program (RDIP), Medium-Term Regional Development Plans (MT-RDP) and the Medium Term Public Investment program (MTPIP) as the bases and sources of the projects.
In the RDC-7 full council meeting recently, NEDA-7 reported that the Central Philippines super region is composed of 24 provinces, 45 cities, 524 municipalities and 63 congressional districts with a total land area of 91,599.3 sq. km. with 14,219 km. of coastline that has strong tourism potentials.
The briefer read, "Central Philippines development potentials include its (a) strategic location, having the shortest travel time from and to Japan, Hongkong, Singapore, Palawan, Iloilo, Legaspi, Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Zamboanga, Surigao and Bacolod; (b) it is a major tourist destination with a total of 3,764.2 million visitor arrivals in 2005 and more than 77,000 overseas Filipino workers.
(c) The region has abundant natural resources accounting for about 37% of national fish production, with 10 existing Mariculture Parks and an estimated $367.4Billion value of potential mineral resources, has installed a total power generating capacity of 2,362.93MW and potential renewable energy resources of 1,225.85MW from Bagasse, micro-hydro, rice and coconut residues.
(d) The region has 25 special economic zones; 4 from ROPA, 4 from Bicol, 3 from Eastern Visayas and 14 from Central Visayas that are ready and available areas for industrial expansion and (e) the Central Philippines region is a major exporter of leading export commodities like; sea vessels. The Tsuneishi Heavy Industries Cebu Inc. has built 54 ships (bulk carriers) from 1997-2005 with a total exports of $73.409-Million; manufacturers of electronics, furniture, wearables, fashion accessories, handicrafts, house décor-(gifts, toys & house wares); agricultural products such as coconut and its by-products (virgin coconut oil), mango, abaca, nuts and seaweeds.
The report further said, the Central Philippines super region has adopted seven (7) strategic themes to encourage investments through the promotion of the Central Philippines tourism center; linking the islands through efficient transportation and communication facilities; harnessing the vast coastal and marines resources and addressing the small islands fragile ecosystem; developing agribusiness, SME, and export potentials; pursuing responsible mining and quarrying; optimizing and ensuring adequate and reliable supply power and its potentials; and enhancing social services.
According to NEDA-7, the seven strategic plans will cost the local and national government about P100,736.23-Million P32,578.09-Million of which will come from the private sector.
Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, Jr. said that multi-billion peso projects under the super region development program are backed up by adequate funding. "Yes, we can sustain it. If the government's strong revenue program and collection efforts are sustained, the total fiscal space based on the three year forward estimates would reach P527.2-Billion from 2007-2010."
Andaya added, the total investment cost will be shared by the private sector at P67.7 Billion; government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) at P115.6-Billion and local government units (LGUs) at P1.3-Billion while the national government, at P184.5 Billion.
By project category, rail programs have the biggest funding requirements, followed by roads and airports. Andaya said, next year, the national government will allocate P17-Billion for infrastructure projects specifically for airports and roads.
Finance secretary Margarito Teves on the other hand said, the government expects to improve national revenue collection efforts to generate about P6.5-Trillion over the medium term. Teves further said, "Roughly, this will amount to an average of about P1.3-trillion per year." (PIA-Cebu) [top]