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Mindanao Delivers: Logistics leaders look to Davao for next supply chain hub

Industry leaders from the logistics, mobility, and e-commerce agreed that Mindanao is the hub that can create a seamless supply chain for the entire Philippines during the final installment of the Davao ICon 2021 Innovation Series held virtually on October 27. The panel entitled “Mindanao as the Logistics Hub of ASEAN: First and Last Mile Logistics” featured mostly women leaders and experts who tackled improving the shipping and logistics sector so that the nation can keep with the global shift to online and the resulting demand for more efficient deliveries. The virtual event also coincided with the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Incorporated’s 10th General Membership Meeting, wherein the Board of Trustees and members were present.

The webinar was hosted by Davao Tourism Association President Gatchi Gatchalian who reminded the audience of the upcoming Davao Investment Conference on November 11 and 12.

Davao ICon 2021 Chairperson Ricardo Lagdameo noted the importance of having a Mindanao strategy to efficiently tap into the large, vibrant, and important markets present in the region. He stated during his opening remarks: “All the industry leaders across all the webinars so far have agreed that Davao, and Mindanao in general, are extremely important markets for their respective businesses. It was most encouraging to hear from our FMCG experts that they all felt that in order to be an industry leader for their respective products, they needed to have a Mindanao strategy.” He added, “With an economy that’s consistently growing at a higher rate than the national average every year, coupled with a large population, the Davao region presents numerous possibilities for all investors.”

Following Lagdameo in getting the webinar underway was Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Incorporated President Dr. Maria Lourdes Monteverde. She mentioned in her welcome address the responsibility of the business sector, through the Davao ICon, as the economy aims to restore itself: “The economy went on a tailspin, the world leaders searched for solutions to reboot, recharge, recover and reset the economy to the new norms of doing business and going on with our lives. As scientists searched for cure and treatment, the business sector and its stakeholders—both from the government and private stakeholders—searched for solutions to revive, recover, and reinvent the sector and pivot the economy to a much better world.”

The event was unique compared to its predecessors as it featured two keynote speakers: Zoe Chi, the Vice President for Philippines Global at J&T Express, and Attorney Dino Austria, District Collector at the Bureau of Customs in Davao.

In her keynote speech, Zoe Chi discussed the potential that lies in Mindanao, which J&T recognized as a prime location for expansion despite only starting operations in the Philippines in 2018. She said, “After just two years of operation, J&T Express saw the potential of Mindanao as a growing region because of business opportunities, realty investments, and its modern international seaports and container terminals.” She also notes, “The Mindanao region presented a significant opportunity for J&T to invest in building more branches and warehouses and further spur the growth of the logistics industry.”

Attorney Dino Austria admitted that the public sector often acts as a barrier to commerce and trade, especially when processes are outdated and inconvenient. Austria presented during his keynote speech the Bureau of Customs’ solutions to expedite economic growth which included updating, automating, and digitalizing procedures, improving communication lines between client and bureau, completing ISO certification, and implementing policy reform. He stated during the panel discussion, “This is exactly why we’ve been pressured to keep up in government: because the world, the private sector has been evolving quite fast around us. We don’t want to pose as a barrier for economic activity, for the movement of goods. We realize and fully understand the very crucial role that we play. Heavy investments have been made for us to be at par, for us to be responsive to your needs.”

The panel discussion quickly followed the two keynote speeches and allowed reactors to give more insight on why their companies domiciled in Mindanao. Aside from the strategic location and the large customer base present in Mindanao, industry leaders noted that there is a readiness to go more digital and it must be cultivated to set up the region as the next logistics hub of the country.

Tatiana Cziomer, Chief Operations Officer of e-commerce enabler Etaily, highlighted the work ethic of Davaoeños and the advantage of being IT-enabled as e-commerce continues to boom in a post-pandemic economy. “I see Filipinos and Davaoeños as people who will do everything they can to serve the customers. That’s something we’ll continue to use to provide great service,” she stated. “In Etaily, we really believe in empowering our merchants via technology. Having great universities in Mindanao and Davao and being able to lean more people towards tech is the way to go for progress and innovations in the e-commerce space.”

Joining the panel also was Director of the Executive Board at multi-industry company OneLGC Lina Group of Companies, Donna May Lina. During the discussion, she enumerated the factors present in Mindanao that make it a viable logistics hub: “One is lower cost of living and transactions, there’s also less congestion. There are also less typhoons going around in the Davao region, which means less disruptions in moving goods. Of course, there’s also the great people who are highly trainable and warm.”

Sabina Lopez-Vergara, Chief Commercial Officer of Ninja Van, added throughout the discussion the importance of being flexible and adaptable, especially when domiciling a logistics company in a region that has areas that are underdeveloped. She highlighted, “It’s very important to have consolidation warehouses. Ninja Van has mobile hubs or warehouses, sometimes we use the storage of commercial businesses or employ trucks to be the hubs themselves so that riders can easily go back and forth.”

John Carlo Tria, who was president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Incorporated in 2020, joined the panel to continue the conversation on the upcoming Davao Investment Conference. Aligning with insights from Dr. Maria Lourdes Monteverde, Tria stated that the Davao ICon 2021 is all about capitalizing on the policy reforms that were brought up following the previous conference, and leveraging them to make the economy more robust. “The real estate players present at the conference are developing townships that will serve as a catalyst for more investments to come in,” he notes. “In the past, it was really about policy advocacy, now it’s really more about capitalizing on the reforms that can help boost the economy.”

Davao ICon 2021 Co-Chairperson Nicole Bian-Ledesma closed the webinar with a brief but energizing message: “It is such an honor to be sharing the virtual stage with such a powerful group of women leaders. Indeed, Davao City and Mindanao as a whole is geographically in a favorable position—it has access to its neighboring countries, ASEAN countries, BIMP-EAGA—and Mindanao can very well be not just the logistics hub, energy hub, but the next investment magnet because of our infrastructure and growth of e-commerce.”

Witness Davao Region: of the Philippines, of ASEAN, and of the future, in action on November 11 and 12! To view the pricing options for group and individual registration and save your virtual spot at the conference by visiting www.davaoicon.com. For inquiries, reach out to the Davao ICon 2021 team at davaoicon@davaochamber.com.

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