A GROUP of business leaders in Mindanao are planning to undertake trade missions in countries that have been frequently issuing travel warnings against Mindanao through their embassies.
Art Milan, president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., said the plans include trade missions to Japan in September and Australia in October to promote the island’s potentials as an investment destination.
He said the foreign missions would help dispel negative impressions of foreigners about the country’s second largest island.
Executives from various business sectors of Mindanao would join the upcoming missions, Milan said.
During the 2019 Davao Investment Conference in Davao last week, Mayor Sara Carpio said she would request her father, President Duterte, to exempt Davao City from his declaration of martial law.
The President declared martial law and the suspension of the privilege of writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao on May 23, 2017, in response to the attack made by the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group in Marawi City.
Congress approved the request of the President for the extension of martial law and suspension of the writ of habeas corpus for the third time in December last year until December 2019.
Carpio said she would ask the city council to pass a resolution requesting for the exclusion of Davao City from the martial law declaration.
“During the Icon, there were a lot of interests to go into business opportunities in Mindanao,” Milan said.
He said trade missions could help convince foreign investors to come to Mindanao.
Davao City Investment Promotions Center head Lemuel Ortonio said investment and tourism roadshows in several Asian countries held earlier intensified the “investment promotion efforts by focusing its direction in the international scale.”
The city government held missions in Japan in 2017, Malaysia and Singapore last year, and South Korea in May this year.
Ortonio noted that Davao is one of the cities in the country that had established good trading activities with Japan, China, South Korea, Hong Kong, United States, The Netherlands, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, Iran, and Spain.
“This goes to show that Davao City is not only confined within the Southeast Asian market because we can also see that it goes beyond East and West Asia to Europe and North America,” he said.
As a result of heightened investment promotions, Milan said the chamber has received several inquiries from foreign businessmen, including those coming from China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan who demanded that a business matching session be facilitated with their Mindanawon counterparts.
He said a group of Malaysians expressed interest to reciprocate Davao’s trade mission to Malaysia in September 2018.
With increased interest for Mindanao, Milan said, the tourism sector should also prepare so that direct air linkages would be sustained.
“We need to identify what can be done to improve and how we can encourage more tourists to come so that all the air connectivity that we have now and our plan in the future will be sustained,” he said.
Qatar Airways launched a weekly Davao-Doha-Davao flight last June 18, a development seen to strengthen the position of the city as an investment destination and a gateway to Mindanao, according to Ortonio.
“Davao City lies within a strategic location of the Philippines making it a favorable location for investments to freely flow from all corners of the world, especially the Southeast Asian market being the gateway to the Bimp-Eaga region,” he said.
The Qatar Airlines’ Davao-Doha-Davao flight is the fourth international route of Davao City after the Davao-Singapore-Davao flight of SilkAir and Cebu Pacific, Davao-Hong Kong-Davao flight of Cathay Dragon and Davao-Quanzhou-Davao flight of XiamenAir.
Ortonio said more international flights would make it easy for the city to attract more foreign visitors, setting the target for both domestic and foreign visitors to three million arrivals this year from last year’s 2.39 million.
Income from the tourism industry was estimated at P29.39 billion last year while its overall economic benefits had reached P64.65 billion, he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV of Mindanews)