Despite the constraints of the island-wide community quarantine imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, Mindanao’s biggest business event closed with an optimistic outlook for a “Better Normal” than what existed before the global recession.
Over 500 virtual delegates attended the 29th Mindanao Business Conference (MinBizCon) hosted by the Davao Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCII) which brings together the 42 affiliate chambers of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) in Mindanao.
Although there was an expected drop in the number of participants compared to the almost 800 in-person delegates who joined the 28th MinBizCon hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Iligan Foundation, Inc. (CCIFII) last year, organizers still considered this year’s turnout better than expected given the inherent constraints on participation imposed by the community quarantine, especially on travel and mobility, as well as the inherent limitations of the island’s internet cyber highway.
“As we trek on the road of safe recovery, many have taken an interest in Mindanao’s economy. True enough, Mindanao is blessed with the resources and mild weather variations good for food production, and unhampered business and manufacturing operations,” noted DCCCII President John Carlo Borja Tria in his column Eyes on Mindanao.
“Much of Mindanao is under MGCQ allowing eased restrictions, and higher levels of economic activity. Malls are running with new normal protocols and a good number of customers,” he added.
According to the final report of the 29th MinBizCon Secretariat, some 488 registered delegates attended the whole day session on September 10 for an 81% attendance rate, and another 551 on September 11 for a 59% attendance rate.
However, the MinBizCon also received a big boost with the presence of 28 foreign and diplomatic delegates from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, PP PT, and New Zealand from the Asia-Pacific Area; the European Union (EU), Hungary, Italy and Greece from Europe; and the United States.
“We are happy our MinBizCon has sparked renewed interest in the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area,” said Ma. Teresa R. Alegrio, PCCI Area Vice President for Mindanao. “Our pre-conference sessions on the BIMP-EAGA attracted as many as 600 participants from all over the ASEAN Region that our conference secretariat had to make spot adjustments to accommodate the unexpected response from so many from the area.”
“Mindanao’s other advantage is its proximity to ASEAN markets,” Tria noted. “Moreover, its growing manufacturing sector draws its raw materials from its resources, such as fish in General Santos and Zamboanga, coconuts for oil and activated carbon in the Davao region, limestone for cement in Northern Mindanao. Add to that the minerals and service sector and you have a very diverse economy. These are advantages that can help boost recovery.”
The two day event was also covered by 18 representatives from various mainstream and online media from Mindanao and Metro Manila.
Among the key questions raised in relation to the various presentations of the conference were price controls for high value crops which has been a perennial problem in Bukidnon; possible government initiatives to offset the adverse effects of the rice Tariffication law and rice imports on local rice farmers; badly needed reforms in the present structure of agriculture in Mindanao which constrains the growth of the sector and continues to keep poverty levels high, especially among Lumad farmers; availability of funds for the recovery and rehabilitation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from the global pandemic and opportunities available for out of school and illiterate youths from the Mindanao Road Map and Agriculture Investments.
“Another major point which surfaced during the conference was how demand for agricultural products was so great in Metro Manila and Luzon, yet we are still unable to close the demand-supply gap with the bumper harvests of Mindanao farmers after all these years,” Alegrio noted.
“In spite of this however, we are encouraged by the repurposing of some factories in Mindanao such as the plan of a wine factory to shift some of its capacity to the production of medical grade alcohol which is much in demand this time of the global pandemic. We are especially encouraged by this development because there is no medical alcohol factory in Mindanao at present and we have to import all our needs from Luzon and the Visayas.”
“Ultimately, PCCI Mindanao would like to see more value-added production for Mindanao’s agriculture produce to replace the perennial conundrum of throwing away surplus agricultural products for want of better prices and buyers,” she stressed. “Our farmers and traders should be able to harmonize their harvests and supply chains with their buyers from Metro Manila, Cebu and other major urban centers to make it a win-win situation that benefits everyone moving forward.”
The 29th MinBizCon was assisted by Event Partners the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP), Evident Integrated Marketing and PR, PLDT Enterprise, Holcim, Davao Light and Coca Cola Beverages Philippines, Inc.
The two day event’s sponsors included Sarangani Bay (Prime Bangus), Land Bank of the Philippines, P&A Grant Thorton, SGV, Alsons Power Group, Development Bank of the Philippines, Aboitiz, Aboitiz Power, Italpinas Development Corporation, Apo Agua Infra, Dusit Thani Davao, dusit2 Davao, Dusit Thani Lubi Plantation Resorts, Environmental Counselors Inc, FirstGen, Alsons Development & Investment Corporation, Pilipino Banana Growers & Exporters Association, DMI-Philippines (Original MX3) and Globe My Business.
BusinessWeek Mindanao, the only business newspaper in Mindanao, was the sole media partner for the 29th MinBizCon 2020.