CEBU’S ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
(FIRST OF THREE PARTS)
Amid a backdrop of turbulence in the country’s political arena as well as an international backlash on the Duterte administration’s brutal war against drugs, the business community is unaffected and only see tremendous economic opportunities for Cebu in 2017.
The optimism is well grounded, according to business leaders and industry stakeholders, who are looking at opportunities that lie ahead because they believe that despite the controversies that surrounded President Rodrigo Duterte’s first six months in office, his economic managers have actually put in place sound policies conducive for business.
“So far, all the initiatives are in line in terms of creating more trading opportunities for everyone in the country,” said Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Melanie Ng.
Ng said they have to prepare not just for the positive developments brought about by initiatives of the present administration but also the negative impacts that have also resulted from the controversies involving the President as well as from international events.
The negative impacts that Ng was referring to were challenging events that the country had hurdled last year, including the crashing stock markets, the depreciation of the peso against the US dollar, the unease among foreign investors over pronouncements made by President Duterte and his seemingly flip-flopping policies, as well as the jitters within the local business community due to the victory of US President-elect Donald Trump and his protectionist stance.
Cebu’s tourism industry, however, gets the first dibs at the downpour of opportunities with the country’s hosting of the Miss Universe 2016 pageant this January, where the swimwear portion of the beauty tilt will be held at a Cebu resort this Jan. 17, or two days after the culminating street dance and grand parade on Jan. 15 of the Sinulog Festival, a world renown week-long religious and cultural festivity held in honor of Cebu’s patron saint, the Señor Sto. Niño.
Industry stakeholders will also get their hands full in April with Cebu having being chosen as one of the venues of the pre-summit meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit, which will be hosted by the Philippines at the Clark Freeport Zone in August.
The beauty event this January will bring economic benefits to several sectors linked to the tourism industry, like the food, accommodation and retail sectors, as more tourist are expected to visit Cebu to watch the swimsuit competition to be held at JPark Island Resort & Waterpark in Lapu-Lapu City.
Robert Go, president of the Philippine Retailers Association (PRA) in Cebu, said the impact of these events on the local economy would not be immediately felt, such as fully booked hotels and restaurants, even as there will be tremendous name recall in the longer run.
Go said food and hospitality sectors would usually perform well during big events and holidays, with each consumption contributing to the local Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Edilberto Mendoza, president of the Cebu Association of Tour Operators (Cato), said having the Miss Universe swimsuit tilt and some Asean Summit meetings here would attract foreign investments, not only in tourism, but in business as a whole.
“This will be a great opportunity for us to showcase the best that we can offer like our people, our rich heritage and culture, language and our natural attractions,” he said.
For Ng, the two events will once again highlight the province’s ability to stage international events.
“Not only will we be on the global stage, but our local economy will be benefited because local suppliers and services will be needed,” she said.
Ng said that these events would boost the revenue of local companies as well as open up opportunities for the global market.
The event will also give Cebu international exposure as a tourism destination.
“Definitely, Cebu will be promoted all over the world. Only a few destinations are selected, so it will show that the province is one of the best places in the country to visit,” said Catalino Chan, regional director of the Department of Tourism in Central Visayas (DOT-7), in a recent interview.
Chan, who took over the post only last month, said the Cebuano hospitality would also guarantee that the visiting delegates would have lasting memories and experiences.
He said these would encourage them to return to the country including Cebu or recommend this as a destination of choice to their friends or relatives.
Hembler Mendoza, Lapu-Lapu City Tourism chief, agreed with Chan.
“People outside of the Philippines will discover where to go, especially in Cebu,” Mendoza said, referring to effect of the hosting of the Miss Universe Swimsuit competition at the Mactan resort.
While Lapu-Lapu City is just starting to spruce up the city for the event, the accommodation sector on the island have already shown the tangible benefits of holding the Miss Universe swimsuit competition on Mactan Island, with some second and third class hotels there already fully booked for the event week, revealed Mendoza.
The swimsuit competition on Jan. 17 will culminate with the coronation night on Jan. 30 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Another big event the local tourism sector is looking forward to is the country’s hosting of the Asean Summit, with some of the events scheduled to be held in Cebu.
“If we get to host the Asean Summit, then we will be expecting more tourists to come. The MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibits) market is also one potential market that Cebu should look into. We are pushing for Cebu to be a top MICE destination, but we need to have a bigger venue,” Mendoza said.
Based on a DOT-7 report, Central Visayas welcomed a total of 3.16 million tourists during the first seven months of the year, using data culled from tourism establishments across the region.
At 2.3 million, Cebu comprised the bulk of regional tourism arrivals, followed by Bohol at 402,246; Negros Oriental at 402,405; and Siquijor at 54,788.
With these figures, the DOT-7 is bullish it will hit the 5.8 million target visitors in Central Visayas for the year.
According to DOT-7, for September 2016 alone, they earned P14.22 billion from the recorded 422,943 visitor arrivals, with each visitor spending an average of P4,350.22 daily.
Another Cebu economic driver, the Information and Communications Technology-Business Process Management (ICT-BPM) industry, will continue to provide more opportunities for the Filipinos and Cebuanos in general.
Wilfredo Sa-a, Jr., executive director of Cebu Educational Development Foundation for Information Technology (CEDF-IT), said more jobs are expected to be generated within the industry in the next six years.
“With the recent launching of the (Philippine ICT) Roadmap 2022, it was emphasized that there will be growth in higher value services and more growth outside Metro Manila,” Sa-a said.
Sa-a said that supposedly, more jobs will be brought to the countryside through the roadmap.
The National Economic and Development Authority in Central Visayas (Neda-7) estimated that at least 20,000 new jobs were created by the industry in Cebu City alone in 2016.
In Metro Cebu, there are close to 120,000 workers employed by the ICT-BPM industry.
Industry leaders projected that ICT-BPM revenues in Cebu will go beyond $25 billion by the end of 2016 from $22 billion in 2015.
(Part 2: The “Golden Age of Infrastructure”)