THE 28th Mindanao Business Conference will raise six major policy agenda to President Rodrigo R. Duterte when he addresses the closing plenary of the annual event on Saturday, September 14, at the MSU-IIT gym in Iligan City.
The Mindanao Business Conference is an annual area conference organized by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce Inc. (PCCI) led by President Alegria Limjoco and Area Vice President for Mindanao and 28th MinBizCon Chair Merlou Quisimbing.
This year’s host is the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Iligan Foundation Inc. (CCIIFI) led by President and 28th MinBizCon Director Reggie Punongbayan.
Ma. Teresa R. Alegrio, PCCI Region 10 Governor identified these policy agenda as Upgrading Airport Capabilities in five key areas; increasing private 2sector consultations and participation in the Roads Leveraging Linkages for Industry and Trade (ROLL IT) program; expediting action on the TRABAHO Bill given its Implications to Business; Fast-tracking the Rehabilitation of Agus-Pulangi Hydropower Plant ; Institutionalizing the Whole-of-Nation Approach under EO 70 to address Mindanao’s perennial peace and order issues; and, Fast-tracking the Economic Recovery of Marawi City.
Upgrade Airports in Key Areas
The first policy agenda seeks the upgrading of airports’ capabilities in Pagadian, Ozamiz, Surigao (and Siargao), Camiguin, and Laguindingan Airport.
“Mindanao’s air passenger volume performance in 2011 to 2018 is surpassing the country’s annual average growth rate (9.7% vs. 7.7%), coupled with an increasing share (12.0% to 13.1%),” Alegrio noted.
Aside from Mindanao’s 5 biggest airports of Davao, Laguindingan, Zamboanga, General Santos and Butuan, the Ozamiz, Pagadian, Camiguin, and Surigao Airports have exhibited increasing shares and growth – a testament of their rising significance to business and to the influence areas they cater to, she added.
Among the actionable areas being sought by the MinBizCon are increased transparency on the entire project cycle of all airport development projects, the upgrading of night time operations capabilities of all airports, and the acceleration of the procurement process for Laguindingan Airport’s upgrade, expansion, operations and maintenance given the OPS status granted to Aboitiz InfraCapital unsolicited proposal.
Meantime, the private sector is asking DPWH and DTI to conduct regular consultations between and among the Mindanao regions with business and industry sectors of all regions to improve transparency and spur participation/optimize benefits of the Roads Leveraging Linkages for Industry and Trade (ROLL IT) program.
Intensifying regular consultations and feedback mechanisms would improve the knowledge level of the private sector and should include orientation on the entire project cycle (planning to evaluation), regular consultations with the local industry leaders for project identification, and dedicated website portals for effective monitoring of project implementation.
The policy of the national government during the procurement process e. g., opening of sealed bids, should designate the private sector representative as a permanent and voting member of the bids and awards committee, and not merely as an observer.
The private sector is seeking a similar protocol from the Department of Finance (DOF) as the main proponent of the TRABAHO bill to undertake a series of consultations similar to small town-hall meetings with the business sector to provide first-hand information on the relevant contents, and implications to members of the business community, labor and to the national economy.
With the failure of the bill to pass last Congress, the TRABAHO package needs to be refiled in the House of Representatives in the 18th Congress. Even if passed, this is expected to be a protracted process, thus the business community need to increase lobbying efforts on the legislative process in order to fast-track its enactment into law, while allowing for more in-depth analysis on its implications to labor and human capital, internal revenues, business competitiveness, trade performance, health and education, countryside investment, among others.
Proposed comprehensive reforms on taxation and in fiscal incentives are seldom undertaken resulting to dissimilar and contrasting interpretations and implications.
Hence, it is imperative for the national government, more particularly the DOF as the main proponent of the TRABAHO package of tax and fiscal incentives reforms, and together with other government agencies
The TRABAHO package forwarded by DOF intends to progressively lower the current corporate income tax (CIT) from 30% to 20% over a 10-year period to benefit MSMEs that constitute the bulk of business establishments in the country.
It also aims to modernize the current convoluted fiscal incentive environment to make it more ‘pro-investment and pro-incentive’ i.e. create more jobs, advance R & D, cause technology transfers, encourage innovation, stimulate domestic industries, promote countryside development, and diversify to high-value export goods.
Agus-Pulangi HEPP Rehab
In another key policy agenda, the private sector is asking the DOF and DOE to fast-track the Rehabilitation of Agus-Pulangi Hydropower Plant (HEPP) in the 2020 National Expenditure Program plan, being the most significant and urgent challenge to the power sector as it has far ranging ramifications on the business climate and competitiveness dynamism of Mindanao.
Corollary to the fast-tracking of Agus-Pulangi system’s rehabilitation is the privatization mandated by the EPIRA law. PSALM together with the Joint Congressional Power Committee (JCPC), should consider other options such as a hybrid privatization where the Operations and Maintenance (O& M) can be privatized but the ownership of the facility remains with government.
Another option is to exclude the Agus and Pulangi HEPPs from the privatization plans of PSALM and seriously considered this in the amendment of the EPIRA law.
The websites of the departments of Finance and Energy and the National Power Corporation should contain a dedicated section on the status of the rehabilitation of the Agus-Pulangi hydroelectric power plants and evolving completion targets, if any. Furthermore, the updates should include progressive updates on the privatization of these HEPPs.
At present the procurement of services for the feasibility study is still underway and if proceed as planned; the entire rehabilitation will take place within the next 4 to 5 years or, 2023 to 2024. Cost has been estimated to exceed a little over US$1.0 Billion.
EO 70 Whole-of-Nation Approach
To address Mindanao’s perennial peace and order problem, the private sector is seeking the institutionalization of the Whole-of-Nation Approach detailed in Executive Order No. 70 (EO 70).
As the most crucial first step, this policy agenda seeks the formation of regional and/or city ad-hoc inter-agency and multi-sectoral groups facilitated by the designated lead government agency to fast-track the attainment of inclusive and sustainable peace.
Government agencies and their instrumentalities can present to the ad-hoc groups their respective plans and programs in accordance with their respective mandates that can significantly contribute to EO 70. In the same manner, the private sector partners can likewise present complimentary plans and programs.
Only then can an implementation plan be formulated that defines the activities to be undertaken, the extent of required resources (manpower, funds, hardware and technology) needed, with responsibilities clearly allocated amongst the members.
Issued in December 2018, EO 70 reframes and refocuses government policy as it recognizes that insurgencies, internal disturbances and tensions, and other armed conflicts and threats are not only military and security concerns, but symptomatic of broader social, economic, and historical problems, such as poverty, historical injustice, social inequality, and lack of inclusivity, among others.
Thus, the whole-of-nation approach addresses the root causes by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages by the government, by facilitating social inclusivity, and by ensuring active participation of all sectors of the society in the pursuit of the country’s peace agenda.
Fast-tracking the Economic Recovery of Marawi City
Not the least, the private sector seeks the following measures to expedite the economic recovery of Marawi City following the protracted siege by Islamic terrorists.
ADB estimates 369,196 persons with about 100,000 school-aged children were displaced from Marawi City and surrounding municipalities, with 270 civilians killed; 5,627 houses damaged including one municipal hall, one public market, 69 school buildings and 10 madaris, 21 health facilities; and, 73.8 kilometers of city roads and 3 bridges, numerous water supply and distribution assets, and 30.4 kilometers of power distribution lines destroyed.
To fast track the rebuilding of the city’s economy, the private sector is asking the DTI and other relevant government agencies especially members of the Business and Livelihood Sub-Cluster to continue, enhance and further accelerate efforts to assist the Marawi business community through external marketing and promotion of local products and services.
Orientation by DTI on the Supplier Development Program should be conducted soonest to explore potential opportunities with the business sector.
For DTI, the City Government of Marawi, the Provincial Government of Lanao del Sur, with the support of multilateral donor agencies, to establish a Business Resilience Center to institutionalize the promotion of overall business and economic recovery and ensure unparalleled prosperity and growth for Marawi City; as well as enable the business community to pro-actively adapt to future disruptions while strongly maintaining continuous business activities, and safeguarding people and assets.
For DTI with partner MFIs and other private financial institutions to design and support an expanded and Marawi-specific financing packages with risk-mitigation features for the entrepreneurial business community in Marawi.
And lastly, for DICT to strongly urge private telecommunications companies to immediately restore the necessary infrastructure to improve telecommunication connections in Marawi.