By John Tria
Panabo City. It may sound unimportant to many, but for those living in Mindanao, the launch of a groundbreaking Cebu Pacific link between Zamboanga and Sandakan, Malaysia, last Oct. 29 would have spurred exactly the kind of synergies needed to push the BIMP EAGA political and economic project. Unfortunately, the launch was postponed indefinitely.
For those unaware, BIMP EAGA is a political and economic peoject hatched in the early 90’s during the Ramos presidency. It was meant to establish economic linkages among the adjoining regions of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines (BIMP)-East Asian Growth Area (EAGA).
This area raised hopes for the revival of centuries old trading relationships along routes that made Southeast Asia. Moreover, it meant pushing the growth of these slower growing regions: East Malaysia, Sulawesi in indonesia and Mindanao of the Philippines.
As it began 20 years ago, air connectivity via the Davao-Manado and Zamboanga- Sandakan routes was launched. Businesses from each country were taking root.
However, the Asian financial crisis of 1997 stymied this. Connectivity ceased. Except for a few cultural exchange programs, BIMP-EAGA remained a dream.
The hope engendered by the first President from Mindanao is that the BIMP EAGA project will regain traction. With the Mindanao Development Authority (MINDA) leading the charge, hopes soared with the launch of the Davao-Bitung shipping link and the announcement of the revived Zamboanga Sandakan flight.
However, the postponement of the flight dampened business sentiment. For now, all that remains is an overnight ferry.
Online magazine resurgent.ph gives a possible reason for this:
“High-placed sources tell us that this Sandakan-Zamboanga flight risks being canceled altogether due to bureaucratic irregularities preventing government agencies to put the right systems in place. Such obstacles for the flights to commence, according to them, were in fact simple ones that would have cost so little to surmount.”
Perhaps Cebu Pacific can enlighten us on why they chose to potpone the launchnof this much awaited flight.
Furthermore, the MINDA should take the lead and push what is needed to get the bottlenecks out.
The business sector is worried that if this continues, the opportunities for business connectivity with friends in nearby neighboring countries will be lost.
Face to face encounters do more than skype meetings, and flying to Manado via Manila and Jakarta, for example sets you back almost P50,000 and takes almost two days. Direct air links therefore matter.
“Single Windows” and tech to boost ease of doing business
If theres one thing that’s getting Mindanao’s business groups excited, it’s the possibility to quicken the pace of business registration and securing of vital clearances. This involves the promised TradeNet for traders, the establishment of the Philippine Business Data Bank (PBDB).
In particular, the TradeNet platform will function as a single window through which new investments can be made. This is hoped to replace the old “one-stop shop” system, which traders criticize for not doing much to ease transactions with government.
One-stop shops look good of course, to have all the government office reps in one room. But when they can only receive applications and do little to really resolve the concerns that crop up, then the bureaucratic grind remains slow.
It is hoped that the single window can help prevent the grind from making business difficult. When you talk to one person, it is easier to transact.
Many businessmen from Mindanao will avail of this, to enable them and their partners more consistency in the implementation of policies and procedures, and remove the need for them to keep going to Manila just to follow up papers.
Mindanaoan businesses are keeping their fingers crossed that this system will indeed work not only for their benefit, but to bring more opportunities to fulfill the promise of the island. They will be watching this closely.
What healing? For who?
On social media, many Mindanaoans were appalled to see that the supposed November 5 prayer and healing rally at EDSA failed to draw more than the usual crowd as past anti-government rallies led by the same groups.
But what disturbed many about the rally was that its supposed healing message failed to adequately address the pain of those killed, raped, and robbed by drug pushers and addicts. It focused too much on praying for the alleged drug pushers.
Moreover, there is disgust many felt on the way the rally seems to have fallen from prayer to the name-calling and harsh words that many of the organizers accuse government supporters of doing.
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