Robust growth seen in the Visayas
From many indications, the Year of the Water Dragon may just shine brighter for the Visayans.
Economic, business and government leaders have a brighter outlook for Central, Western and Eastern Visayas in 2012. The three regions are expected to sustain or improve their robust performances in tourism, real estate and information technology-business process outsourcing (IT-BPO).
Energy supply, long plagued by shortages, is expected to be stable for at least three years, says the Department of Energy (DOE). This will give the government and other sectors enough time to look for other power sources to meet a hike in demand by 2015.
Antonio Labios, director of DOE’s Visayas field office, says power generators in the Visayas grid stood at 1,648 megawatts (MW) as of January 2, while peak demand (from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.) was pegged at 1,171 MW or a net reserve of 477 MW.
Earlier forecasts estimated that power demand would grow by an average of 4.2 percent yearly, with supply rising in 2017. Demand growth rates, however, had been higher, reaching 9 to 10 percent in some areas, like Cebu and Iloilo, due to the opening of shopping malls and call centers.
This would push the need for new power plants as early as 2015, Labios said.
Tourism and the BPO industries are expected to continue fueling the economic growth of Central Visayas. Rapid development in these sectors ensures an increase in retail growth, according to Jay Aldeguer, outgoing chair of the Philippine Retailers Association-Cebu chapter (PRA-Cebu).
“The robust construction of several condominium buildings, town houses and other home developments, as well as office buildings, also shows promising prospects for the construction of home-related stores. We have to make sure we offer the right product at the right price in order to be effective,” Aldeguer said.
Gordon Allan Joseph, president of the Cebu Business Club, said the anticipated growth in tourism and BPO could offset the effects of the continued slowdown of the global economy in the region.
The Department of Tourism projects 2.9 million arrivals in Central Visayas by 2012, a 10.21 percent increase from those in 2010.
Rowena Montecillo, tourism regional director, said Central Visayas had been concentrating on product development to offer tourists upgraded, if not new, attractions.
Eco-tourism would remain a strong strategy, with Bohol and Cebu taking the lead, Montecillo said.
Economist Fernando Fajardo of the University of San Carlos considers eco-tourism a prime push in letting the rural areas feel that positive change is possible.
Melanie Ng, incoming chair of the PRA-Cebu, said prospects were good for new businesses in Cebu, especially because it had been proven cost-effective among outsourcing companies.
The expansion of giant mall players, such as SM City and Ayala Center Cebu, indicates their confidence, she said.
“(Overall), Cebu is an attractive investor-friendly site. Retail industry players know our potential for growth. It is up for retailers how to be creative and responsive to the growing market,” Ng said.
Officials in Eastern Visayas are expecting dynamic growth driven by investments in malls and tourism.
In Tacloban City in Leyte, the 2-year-old Robinsons Place recently opened an annex, with shops selling locally made products and a restaurant. Late last year, a Taiwanese-owned mall expanded operations in the city.
This only shows investors confidence, said Mayor Alfred Romualdez Jr. “They are not only coming here in Tacloban to invest but they are actually expanding their operations.”
New hotels are scheduled to open this year, including the 98-room Gokongwei-owned Go Hotel. The family of An Waray Representative Neil Benedict Montejo will put up the 50-room Hotel Alejandro.
The 65-room Oriental de Leyte is set to open in March in Palo town in Leyte. “Eastern Visayas has a lot of potential. We’re planning to bring in tourists from Manila and even those coming from outside the country,” said Ruben Santos, Oriental de Leyte chief operating officer.
Gov. Jericho Petilla said the opening of new hotels would pave the way for more tourist arrivals.
Malls are also sprouting in the Samar provinces.
Robinsons and Gaisano are set to open branches in Calbayog City this year. Mayor Rolando Aquino said the investments of the giant mall operators would increase local revenues and generate jobs
Gaisano has put up branches in Maasin City and in Sogod town, both in Southern Leyte.
The IT-BPO and tourism industries are expected to continue growing in Western Visayas.
Tourism buoyed by Boracay Island, which accounted for nearly half of the region’s 2 million tourist arrivals last year, is expected to flourish further.
Helen Camarista, acting tourism regional director, cited new growth areas in Antique, Guimaras, Iloilo, Capiz and Negros Occidental. Roxas City in Capiz is among the fastest-growing destinations, with the opening of several hotels, restaurants and stores, she said.
Small and medium business firms are expected to perform better especially during the festival months of January and February, according to Joe Marie Agriam, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Iloilo.
Increased foreign remittances last year and the expected P2.4-billion spending for various infrastructure projects on Panay Island would create jobs and stimulate the economy, Agriam said.
Dominic Abad, trade regional director, said more jobs and capital were expected in the IT-BPO industry, especially in Bacolod and Iloilo cities. The industry already employs around 10,000 workers.
Abad said the real estate industry was also fast-growing with the opening of Iloilo’s first condominium complex this year.
“Barring calamities, 2012 will certainly be a good year for trade and investment,” he said.
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