Tuna Capital sets sights on Asean integration

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More than 1,500 guests and envoys from six different countries are attending the 23rd Minbizcon, a three-day conference from September 1 to 3.

Held at the KCC Convention Center in General Santos City, Minbizcon gathers local stakeholders, chambers of commerce, and foreign envoys to chart a radical new future for Mindanao and its nascent cities.

The latest Minbizcon kicks off a “Mindanao Week.” Paving the way for the Tuna Congress 2014 from September 4 to 5 and the annual Tuna Festival.

Minbizcon is organized by the Philippine Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) with the help of the Sarangani and General Santos business community. Major corporate sponsors like AboitizPower, Sagittarius Mines, Apex Mining, and energy provider Wärtsilä are also participating.

Conference director and PCCI regional governor Rey Billena believes that now more than ever, the positive indicators are on the side of his hometown, General Santos City, a major tuna exporter poised to benefit from the coming Asean integration.

“Southern Mindanao, which is our area, is being positioned as a gateway for food, agribusiness, and logistics,” Billena says.

Billena adds that despite security issues, Mindanao's economic growth is higher than the national average and recently peaked between 2011 and 2012 at 8.2%.

For Billena, the scourge of rolling blackouts and limited infrastructure means the most critical need at the moment is to provide Mindanao with 3,000 megawatts of electricity by 2015. This explains why San Miguel, Sarangani Energy Corporation, and FDC Utilities are pouring billions of pesos into power plants in the south, according to Billena.

Aside from its bountiful natural resources and location, Billena includes tourism and manufacturing among Mindanao's emerging strengths.

“While the Philippines grew by 4.8% last year Mindanao grew by 6.8% [GDP] and it's driven by manufacturing, construction, trade, and transportation,” Billena says.

General Santos City is improving its port facilities to accommodate a new shipping route to Manado, Indonesia, and lobbying the national government for connecting flights to popular Asean destinations like Bali.


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