Chinese, US investors looking at Mindanao solar, hydro investments

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Agus V and VI Hydroelectric Power complexes and the Pulangi IV Dam -- NAPOCOR.GOV.PH

By Carmelito Q. Francisco,

DAVAO CITY — Renewable energy projects, particularly the manufacture of solar panels and the development of hydroelectric plants, are among the opportunities that foreign investors are looking into, the Mindanao business lobby said.

Arturo M. Milan, president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc., said Chinese businessmen visiting the city in March have raised the possibility of investing in solar panel production and putting up hydroelectric plants.

“(Renewable) energy development is among the key areas that not only the Chinese are interested in,” Mr. Milan told BusinessWorld Monday on the sidelines of a media forum.

He added that members of a delegation from Hawaii who were in the city last week also wanted to explore the potential of the green power sector.

Last week, a business and government delegation from Kauai in Hawaii were in the city to sign a sister city agreement with the Davao local government.

Renewable energy is listed as one of the priority investment areas of the city government, with incentives such as tax holidays offered to investors.

Mr. Milan, however, said that government should look at how the investment climate in energy can still be enhanced, such as bringing incentives down to the household level.

“We need to look at how we can encourage homes to use solar panels instead of relying on electricity from their distributors,” Mr. Milan said.

Under the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, consumers who use solar panels should be able to avail of net metering, under which they are compensated for the excess electricity that their panels feed into the grid.

Another area of investment that foreigners want to explore, Mr. Milan said, is agricultural production and processing.

Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho, Jr., in his speech during the sister city signing event, said businessmen from his country are keen to invest in cacao and coffee, two commodities which are being pushed by Davao City and other local government units within the Davao Region.

The Chinese visitors, on the other hand, want agribusiness areas “where everything can be put in place.”

Mr. Milan explained that this means a site, such as economic zone, where it is possible to set up growing areas as well as processing facilities.

The Chinese delegation will consist of about 70 investors who will be making a push for China’s One Belt, One Road program.

Mr. Milan said the group will charter a flight from Shanghai using an airline that is considering regular direct flights to and from Davao.

In September 2016, Xiamen Airlines conducted a test flight from Xiamen to the city with about 80 passengers using a Boeing 737 aircraft.

City Tourism Operations Office data show that 9,231 Chinese tourists visited the city last year. The top foreign visitors were from the US with 20,779 and Japan with 12,510.