March 29, 2011
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — Development planners in Northern Mindanao are shifting away from the old strategy of focusing on the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan growth corridor in order to spur economic activity faster in the rest of the region.
Lawrence Ll. Cruz, mayor of Iligan City and appointed in December last year as chairman of the Regional Development Council (RDC), said in a recent phone interview here that there is a need to identify several centers that will act as development hubs in order to cover a wider area.
Many better than one
The numerous hubs are expected to spur economic activity in surrounding areas which can act as providers of goods and services for these centers, Mr. Cruz said.
Thus, he said, having several hubs to act as development catalysts should prod economic growth in a wider area in the region than if planners were to depend on just one corridor.
“Northern Mindanao is the fastest growing and largest contributing economy in Mindanao, with 28% contribution to the gross regional product of the island,” Mr. Cruz claimed.
Despite this, he added, the region is still battling with poverty, with a 32.8% incidence rate in 2009.
Still a priority
“Although the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan Corridor will remain a priority, other (growth centers) will also be given importance,” said Mr. Cruz.
Hence, he said, there should be more projects in Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental and Camiguin, which comprise the region, in addition to Misamis Oriental, which generally covers the corridor between Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, the capital of Lanao del Norte.
Northern Mindanao is also banking on its location, hoping to become a transshipment hub for the entire island.
“The region is the best jump-off point for trading,” said Mr. Cruz.
“But there is a need for the provision of complementary structures for the mobility of passengers and cargo.”
The Laguindingan International Airport is due for completion in the first quarter of 2012 and already, farm-to-market roads are being built around the area.
More development projects near the airport are expected in the near term, with Ayala Corp. holding titles to lands surrounding the airport.
A commercial port for passenger ferries plying the waters between Camiguin and Misamis Occidental and nearby tourist destinations is also proposed for development at the southern end of the airport, which is located between this city and Iligan City.
The private sector, represented in the RDC by Rodolfo L. MeÃ±es, past president of Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is also pushing the development of infrastructure projects in the region.
“The Ala-e bypass-road will make Phividec a world-class industrial area,” said Mr. MeÃ±es in reference to a road linking the industrial estate to the Bukidnon-Misamis Oriental highway that leads to Davao region.
Other important infrastructure projects supported by both the RDC and the private sector are the Panguil Bay Bridge in Misamis Occidental and the expansion to four lanes, from the current two, of the highway from Cagayan de Oro to Butuan City.
Despite the withdrawal of a proposed $2-billion shipbuilding project from the Phividec Industrial Estate three years ago, the RDC remains confident of attracting new locators that can make up for that loss in foreign direct investment.
One prospective locator is a company that is reportedly planning for a billion-dollar solar power facility in the region. The RDC, however, could not provide details on this prospective investment. — L. G. Dumas