Interview: Hilario Davide III
In what ways can local governments work to strengthen the value proposition of their provinces as investment destinations?
HILARIO DAVIDE III: A level and stable playing field and a healthy business environment with strategic support for infrastructure are important for attracting investments. Prospective investors wanting to locate in any province look at possible areas based on certain criteria – good governance being one in particular – before a final investment decision.
First, an investor looks for political stability with clear and consistent policies when they seek to establish businesses that can operate sustainably on a long-term basis, as they want to ensure the security of their investments. Second, public investments are responsive to the building of critical infrastructures that sustain the growth of local industries – particularly in the countryside – and trade.
Investors put a premium on a location’s proximity to airports and seaports, especially as they have to satisfy their clients’ demand for the safe and timely arrival of products. Infrastructure also entails the reliability and affordability of electricity and water utilities. Another major factor that entices investment is sufficient labour and fair labour practices. Countries with cheap labour have seen investors withdraw due to allegations of sweatshop practices.
Tourism is a growing economic driver in the Philippines. In what ways can Cebu take advantage of new tourism growth areas?
DAVIDE: One of the key economic drivers for Cebu is tourism. The potential of this industry extends beyond Metro Cebu and to the province’s smaller towns, which may now be able to develop their respective tourism industries.
There is an ongoing effort to intensify our partnership with the private sector in promoting Cebu as a prime destination for tourists. In addition, we are increasing the visibility of Cebu’s natural attractions, as well as the festivals and cultural events that happen all throughout the year. Another aim is to establish niche markets in medical wellness and retirement homes that can be sustained in the long term.
How well positioned is Cebu as a trade and logistics hub for the archipelago? What is being done to help improve the province’s competitiveness?
DAVIDE: Cebu has always been said to have similar attributes to Singapore in terms of its location and physical attributes. Like in Singapore, gateways are essential for strengthening the value proposition of any site for businesses and tourism. These gateways make Cebu a well-positioned trade and logistics hub. However, these do not add value if we are not able to overcome the daunting challenges of rapid urbanisation and infrastructure bottlenecks.
The Mactan-Cebu International Airport is currently undergoing an expansion under a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement. This will provide more impetus for increased investments and tourism in the region. We hope to improve and make functional the satellite airports in the northern islands to complement the air service requirements of the province and neighbouring regions and further unlock the growth potentials of Cebu.
Through a PPP between Metro Pacific Group and the local governments of Cordova and Cebu City, a third Cebu-Mactan bridge will be built to increase access to the island’s main gateway and strengthen the interconnectivity of Cebu. Additionally, the Department of Transportation and Communications has approved the construction of an international seaport in Consolacion which will help to decongest the port of Cebu City and improve trade and commerce. The World Bank has also approved a mass transit system, which will address traffic congestion in Metro Cebu and cover 13 cities and municipalities.
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