To decongest national capital Industry leaders told: relocate in regions
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY –– A top executive of the Phividec Industrial Authority (PIA), a government-owned corporation that operates Mindanao’s largest industrial estate, has asked the country’s captains of industry to heed President Duterte’s call for dispersing industries to the regions.
Lawyer Franklin M. Quijano, PIA administrator and chief executive officer, said industrial dispersal would hasten the drive to decongest Metro Manila, the goal of the government’s Balik-Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) program.
With a push from Sen. Christopher Lawrence Go, BP2 was launched in response to the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
It was thought that a decongested national capital region (NCR) will make it less vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19.
Metro Manila is the epicenter of COVID-19 in the country, accounting for half of the total cases.
“Availability of land to till used to be the main driver of migration into Mindanao beginning a century ago. Today, availability of jobs would be the main attraction to draw people back to Mindanao, or to the other regions, for that matter,” explained Quijano.
By relocating to the regions, businesses would bring job opportunities there, hence attract people there, he said.
Quijano noted that in the 1970s, there was already a consciousness on the need for industrial dispersal with many economists pushing vigorously for such policy.
“But nobody was listening to the prescription. The captains of the industry never listened,” he pointed out.
Four decades on, “you have a megalopolis bursting at the seams,” he added.
As the major seat of economic opportunities, the NCR magnets migrants, driving its overcrowding. It hosts some 13 percent of the country’s over 100 million people, based on the 2015 census.
With an area of only 620 square kilometers, population density in the NCR is 20,785 persons per square kilometer, more than 60 times the national average of 337 per square kilometer.
“Metro Manila’s urban decay is a manifestation of the country’s inability to create other growth centers,” Quijano said.
In 2018, the NCR contributed 36 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), and 1.8 percent of the 6.2-percent growth that year.
It took COVID-19 for a serious rethinking of these scheme of things.
But Quijano said that before the pandemic, Duterte already issued a policy that sought to accelerate economic growth in the countrysides.
Issued on June 17, 2019, Administrative Order No. 18 imposed a moratorium on the setting up of economic zones in Metro Manila to encourage these to be set up outside the NCR.
“We hope the leaders of industry heed the policy this time,” Quijano said.
In support of BP2, the PIA has spared 20 hectares within its 3,000-hectare industrial estate in Misamis Oriental for a village to be developed by the National Housing Authority for people wanting to return to Mindanao from the NCR.
Quijano said they have also talked to existing locators to allocate job openings for Mindanao returnees.
The Phividec industrial estate has 85 business locators that employ close to 5,000 workers.
Quijano expects this to increase dramatically when an integrated steel mill project goes on stream.
He said they were still in the process of evaluating three proponents vying to be awarded lease on the area allocated for integrated steel manufacturing.
The project would generate 50,000 jobs during construction and 4,000 jobs during operation, he added.
Apart from drawing in business locators into the regions, another aspect of industrial dispersal is boosting the absorptive capacity of the provinces, Quijano said.
That could mean preparing the infrastructure and local policies, he added.
As of 2017, Mindanao has 36 economic zones of which eight are for manufacturing, 14 information technology parks, 13 agro-industrial, and one for tourism.
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