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Rough Cuts | A gracious offer to potential investors

The offer of the Davao City Investment Promotion Center (DCIPC) for longer tax holidays to investments on businesses outside of the city’s Central Business District (CBD) is a well-thought of proposition. For us, it could be the most welcome idea that the minds of people running the DCIPC have ever come up.
We got to know about this development in an announcement made by no less than DCIPC chief Lemuel Ortonio during last week’s 5th Davao Investment Conference (ICON) held at the SMX Convention Center.

By “outside of the CBD” area Ortonio was referring to the city’s preferred districts where new investments are encouraged to locate. And he also mentioned the businesses that the city planners recommended to be put in places pre-identified in the city’s zoning plan.

The investment destinations based on the zoning plan include Baguio, Calinan, Marilog, and Paquibato districts. The businesses preferred are on agriculture, tourism and recreational facilities, light manufacturing and assembly, property development, health and wellness including educational and sports infrastructures, environmental or green projects, information and communications technology, new energy generation projects, and transportation system. The DCIPC head also disclosed the city’s preference for projects that are to be built on public-private partnership schemes.

As we said, the offer is a very welcome proposition the city ever made to entice investors to put in their money in this part of the country. More so because the areas identified as investment destinations are those that include the most isolated communities. And we are well aware of the fact that of Davao City’s total land area about 60 percent fall under the “rural” category.

What perpetuates the situation is not just the distance of most villages in the districts mentioned, the lack of infrastructure facilities to enhance their accessibility, but also the most business-unfriendly cause — the presence of communist insurgents in these areas.

Now, with that bold offer of the city government to prospective investors mouthed by the DCIPC’s top executive, we assume that there is truth to the recent claims by the government that the areas earlier mentioned are already emancipated from the stranglehold of the rebels.

Our personal observation also somehow gives us the notion that what the government (both local and national) is doing over the last five years indicate that it has gained a lot of headway in its campaign to end insurgency in those areas of the city. New roads are opened in the hinterlands. Almost, if not all of the main access roads to the barangay centers of the identified investment destinations are now concreted and expanded as well. New bridges are built and public elementary and high schools are opened even in the farthest villages of the city.

Moreover, one very important service needed by investors to consider an area as their new location — stable power to run their machines and other equipment — is already available. And where there is power communication facilities are not far behind.

From the early 80s up to the onset of the year 2000, what are now considered by the city as its preferred destinations for big businesses both new or expansion, were sites of bloody encounters between government soldiers and rebels. These areas then were considered Davao’s “last frontiers;” the city’s “no man’s land.” Those who stuck it out in those places—individuals or businesses—usually ended up being considered pro-government by the rebels therefore subject to their brand of justice; or suspected supporters of the insurgents by the agents of government, therefore their every move was hounded by the eyes and ears of sleuths.

Today there is very observable relative peace in the hinterlands. New roads allow very remote village residents to transport their products to the nearest markets as well as buy their household needs from there using the now popular “habal-habal” transport system. The mostly concreted main access roads to the barangays also give lowland merchants opportunity to bring their wares to the uplands with hardly any fear of being harassed by lawless elements or suspicious police and military personnel.

As we have written in a recent treatise on almost a similar issue as today’s there are a lot of natural resources in the city’s rural areas waiting to be discovered and tapped for development. And most of these are resources that can be converted into major tourist draws.

Somehow, many local investors are slowly heeding the calls of the wild, primarily because of the prevalence of relative peace, better accessibility, availability of power and communication, and perhaps with the knowledge that the local government policies on zoning and land utilization are giving them enough leeway for sustainable operation.

Now the city government through its DCIPC has made those policies even more attractive for big business to come by giving takers much longer tax holidays.

With these we are looking forward to the realization of our personal advocacy of dispersing development to the outskirts of the city’s suburban areas. And we believe this can be effectively done if infrastructure projects like roads, bridges and communication facilities are brought to where these are most needed for the city’s development strides. Through these new economic enclaves will sprout, the city’s urban center will be decongested of its population and the value of properties outside of the city proper will shoot up. In the process, the city stands to earn more from property and business taxes.

The people? Well, more will have jobs and others given opportunity to establish service providing businesses.

We are looking forward to the new Davao City with the more expressed offer of enticing perks by the local government to local and foreign investors.

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