While the 2012 saw widespread flooding hitting Central Luzon in August, destroying about P2 billion worth of crops, no major disaster struck northern Luzon for the rest of the year.
Business and political leaders in the two regions thus are looking forward to a better 2013 as major infrastructure projects are either being completed or started this year and investments in agriculture, tourism and manufacturing keep pouring in.
The robust economy of Central Luzon in 2012 showed it has no other way to go but up in 2013.
The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) in the region says its forecast could be realized and only disasters or disruptions in the global economy could derail it.
Central Luzon is “capable of sustaining a 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent gross regional domestic product growth range for 2013 and beyond, numbers which appear very achievable in 2012,” according to a report from the regional Neda.
The El Niño phenomenon, a period of long dry spell, could be cushioned through the expansive irrigation service in the region.
Improving roads, access
Access to the region has been improved through the road projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways, with the regional office spending P6.5 billion on these alone.
The Tarlac segment of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) will be opened in early 2013, providing travelers a faster and more comfortable route to northern Luzon.
“Easier access and improved facilities at the Clark International Airport are expected to slowly create the critical mass necessary to justify its publicized target of (having) a premier international airport status,” Neda says.
The production sector is revved up by the full operation this year of 15 companies that offer 4,706 new jobs at the free port area in Bataan. The service sector has boomed in part due to 14 shopping malls operated by SM Supermalls, Robinsons and Ayala in the region.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chair Roberto Garcia hopes that 2013 will be better for SBMA as the agency’s initiatives in maritime tourism and industrial locators are fully implemented.
“Manufacturing will continue to be robust although a slight dampening on the export side may be expected due to the strong peso. The sector that shone brightest in 2012 is tourism and it is where we anticipate a considerable upsurge in 2013,” says Danny Piano, president of the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce.
In Tarlac, private and public sector leaders are one in saying that investments in agriculture and construction would be the major contributors to the province’s growth.
Two major developments likely to come about in Tarlac would impact on the local and regional economies. These are the land distribution of the more than 4,000 hectares of Hacienda Luisita to its more than 6,000 farmer beneficiaries and the implementation of the multimillion-peso Balog-balog Dam project, both of which had been in the wish list of many for decades now.
Tarlac Gov. Victor Yap wants to see more of support components, like capital financing, equipment, roads and organizational development, after land is distributed to farmers.
Deogracias Baron Jr., president of the Tarlac Chamber of Commerce and Industry, says he sees positive developments and investments in agriculture, retail and construction.
“There will be new locators. Manufacturing is a challenge and so with tourism. Initiatives on livelihood will be an effort,” he says.
In Nueva Ecija, the opening of local branches of mall chains and the construction of major road projects are boosting hopes in the province.
“The increase in the number of banks in Cabanatuan is an indication of expected bigger economic activities in the province,” says Reynato Arimbuyutan, president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Nueva Ecija.
Arimbuyutan says they are looking forward to the construction of the 64-km Central Luzon Expressway (CLEx) from the Hacienda Luisita interchange of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) to Cabanatuan and San Jose cities. Construction will be in two phases, starting this year until 2015.
Tourism, agri in NL
More than the burgeoning business district in the capital Laoag City, what would further shape Ilocos Norte’s positive growth forecast is that more Ilocanos are borrowing money for investment, a turnaround from the frugal profile that has traditionally characterized the province.
This was the result of a study conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines in partnership with the Bank of the Philippine Islands from January to September 2012. The study looked into the business risk assessment and the management of climate change impacts of Laoag, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga and Dagupan cities.
The study showed that among the areas assessed, new bank loans were highest in the Ilocos region.
The tourism sector remains to be Ilocanos’ cash cow as domestic tourists continue to provide additional cash infusions in the local economy.
In Pangasinan, Dagupan City Mayor Benjamin Lim, whose family owns the Magic Group of Companies, says a factor in local traders’ optimism for 2013 is the renewed and higher confidence in the national government due to its clearer and more transparent economic policies.
In Baguio City, 2012 ended with unfinished business, leaving unfinished stories that may find closure this year.
A feud between the developer of Camp John Hay and its administrator, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), became the first scandal at the start of 2012. In a year, the conflict led to lawsuits, the termination of the Camp John Hay lease contract, and the court ruling that compels the BCDA and the Camp John Hay Development Corp. to undergo arbitration.
In Isabela, Gov. Faustino Dy III says local leaders are banking on agriculture, especially rice production, to carry the province’s economy through 2013.
He says they are thankful that destructive typhoons, like those that hit Cagayan Valley in 2010 and 2011, did not damage Isabela’s farmlands last year.
In Nueva Vizcaya, mining proponents anticipate the brisk economic activity in the province by the operations this year of the mining projects of OceanaGold Philippines Inc. in Kasibu town and FCF Minerals Inc. in Quezon town, including the high demand for jobs and other business activities.
But Tolentino Inlab, chair of the Didipio Earthsavers Multipurpose Association, says environment and civil society groups are looking forward to a more vigorous campaign against the two large-scale mining projects in the province.
Reports from Anselmo Roque, Armand Galang, Robert Gonzaga, Tonette Orejas, Jo Martinez-Clemente, Cristina Arzadon, Villamor Visaya Jr., Leoncio Balbin Jr., Yolanda Sotelo, Melvin Gascon and Vincent Cabreza