By Tyrone A. Velez
Davao City – Davao City will host the 22nd Mindanao Business Conference (MinBizCon) on August 8 to 10, which will discuss policy agenda and recommendations with the national government on the Mindanao economy.
While the conference theme is ‘Moving Towards ASEAN Business Integration,’ MinBizCon Director John Gaisano Jr said participants will ask specific actions and policies for Mindanao’s economic sector from President Benigno Aquino III and eleven Cabinet secretaries who were invited for the event.
“This will not just be an event where national guests will come and give their messages. This time, they will sit down and listen to what the Mindanao business sectors want,” said Gaisano during Monday’s regular Kapehan sa SM Annex Davao press conference.
Gaisano, former chair of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce, said the President and the officials will hear “key economic concerns” from their consultation with “nearly 250 businessmen and industry organization leaders in five regions all over.”
Issues to be focused by the conference include power reform, support for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and agribusiness, and skills development, according to Gemma Dagaas, media affairs of Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).
Gaisano said Mindanao’s business leaders want to hear specifics from the Aquino government for Mindanao’s growth. “For a time, Mindanaoans feel like third class citizens. Yet we produce 40% of the country’s food requirements and more than 30% to the national food trade.”
Mindanao remains as the country’s main source of food and agribusiness accounting 60% of the country’s agricultural exports worth 130-billion pesos (US$ 3B), according to figures from MinDA
“If the president said he cares for the poor, then he should come. Mindanao is where most of the poor live. We appeal for the president to listen,” Gaisano added.
Gaisano said he has personally informed around five of the Cabinet secretaries to attend the event. When asked if he has reached the president, he replied, “The letter is already on his table.”
After the President’s State of the Nation Address, government agencies announced that five Mindanao regions experienced economic growth driven by exports and agribusiness. But sectors from workers and farmers complain they get little to no benefits from low wages, lay-offs, labor-only contractual scheme and lack of agrarian reform.
Concerns in the region’s agribusiness such as lack of processing centers, support for small agribusiness players and large tracts of untapped land will also be discussed, this according to Romeo Montenegro MinDA director for Investment Promotions and Public Affairs.
The business leaders share the same call for support to SMEs, especially with the coming ASEAN economic integration in 2015.
Gaisano said in economic blocs like the European Union, SMEs get support, research and funding for their development.
“The government doesn’t need to help the likes of San Miguel (Corp) or Henry Sy. It’s the SMEs that need help,” he added.
In the website of the Department of Trade and Industry, SMEs nationwide account around 96% of all enterprises or around 75,000 establishments and employed two million people.
Micro and SMEs operate mostly in trade and repairs of motor vehicles, manufacturing, social services, finance, and food. Mindanao regions, however, are lagging behind in figures.
The conference is expected to gather 1,000 people from business leaders in Mindanao, Manila as well as foreign economic leaders including BIMP EAGA. The three-day event will be held at SMX Davao Convention Center, SM Lanang Premier.
(Tyrone A. Velez/davaotoday.com)