By Carmelito Q. Francisco and Maya M. Padillo, Correspondents

Duterte is ‘good for business,’ Davao City business pioneers affirm

Posted on May 18, 2016

DAVAO CITY -- Homegrown businesses expect more investors to start considering Davao City following the as-yet unofficial victory of Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte in this year’s presidential election. At the same time they expressed confidence his administration will deliver continued economic growth nationwide.

Rodrigo R. Duterte -- BW FILE PHOTO
“Of course we believe more investors will take note of the city as an area of opportunities, but with his leadership, we believe the entire country will benefit from it,” said Eric D. dela Costa, vice-president of Alsons Properties Inc., a subsidiary of the Alcantara-led Alsons Development and Investment Co.

The property company, which has been developing high-end subdivisions in the city since the 1980s, recently launched a new brand for the middle-income market.

The Alsons Power Group also has two projects in Mindanao, a 200-megawatt (MW) coal-fired facility in Sarangani province and a 105-MW plant in Zamboanga City.

The Floirendo family’s Anflo Management and Investment Corp. (Anflocor), whose flagship business is banana production and export, has diversified into real estate, port operations, and economic zone development.

Ricardo F. Lagdameo, vice-president of Anflocor’s Damosa Land Inc., said Mr. Duterte has basically allowed local businesses to operate and thrive.

“For us as a company, the government [of Mr. Duterte] bestowed [on] us the laissez-faire, which means hands off, so that businesses can run and the government’s concern is providing the basic services and needs of the people,” said Mr. Lagdameo in an interview.

“This sense of pride in the city, in its people, in its mayor, has made the climate here more conducive for business,” he also said.

Mr. Lagdameo described Mr. Duterte’s economic agenda as “very simple that promises no red tape, no corruption, solidifying peace and order.”

“We tend to forget all these things that are so simple compared to all those highfalutin complicated economic policies. But without the building blocks, investors would not come in.”

Vicente T. Lao, chairman of the Mindanao Business Council (MBC), said these companies have grown and expanded because Mr. Duterte’s leadership has been “good for business.”

“Even when everyone did not notice the city as an investment area, these companies have decided to make more investments because they know that eventually his leadership will help them grow their businesses,” said Mr. Lao, who runs construction and poultry companies in Mindanao.

Another business leader, Antonio F. de la Cruz, former president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said investors could be assured of peace and order with Mr. Duterte as president.

“The mayor has focused his energ[ies] on peace and order. And he promised to continue this focus on a nationwide scale as businesses usually look for a peaceful environment when they scout for an area to invest,” he said.

For his part, Davao City Investment and Promotion Center officer-in-charge Ivan C. Cortez said Mr. Duterte’s eight-point economic agenda will empower the poor.

“If you summarize the eight-point agenda, it aims to lessen the gap between the poor and the rich,” Mr. Cortez said.

Former MBC chair Joji Ilagan Bian said Mr. Duterte needs to embrace the gains of the current administration, further develop these, as well as create his own landmark agenda.

Meanwhlie, a group has expressed concern over Mr. Duterte’s planned lifting of constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership to encourage more foreign direct investments.

“To allow foreign investments in agriculture is already a privilege to them. To give them incentive that is unwarranted is unjustifiable as it will further cripple the local agriculture industry,” Rosendo O. So, president of the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura said in a statement sent on Tuesday.

Mr. So said agricultural and fisheries production and processing, whether small-scale or commercial, are among the areas where foreign investments should not be allowed.

He said foreign chambers have expressed interest in purchasing agricultural lands, exploiting aquatic resources, and venturing further in mining in environmentally critical areas.

“Such investment ventures have, in the past, led to various social and environmental problems, loss of livelihoods and wholesale displacement of rural communities,” he warned.

Mr. So said the local agribusiness community “is more than capable” of developing the rural economy with the full support of the government, which has instead relied on international markets to meet staple food demand.

He recommended an agricultural program revolving around food self-sufficiency and rural livelihood. Mr. So added that priority must be given to reforming the Bureau of Customs and Department of Agriculture to limit the smuggling of agricultural products.

“So far, we have heard the eight-point agenda....We hope that our priority should now be in giving protection and in the promotion of the development of local agriculture,” Mr. So said. -- with Janina C. Lim