Monthly Archives: March 2011

Northern Mindanao shifts from growth corridor tack

Businessworld Online
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.”

Strategic projects

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. Meñes, 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. Meñes in reference to a road linking the industrial estate to the Bukidnon-Misamis Oriental highway that leads to Davao region.

Luring investments

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

MRDP to revive critical watersheds in Mindanao

The Philippine Star
By Sherwin B. Manual
March 13, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) is rehabilitating major watersheds critical to the effort to boost food production in Mindanao.

The Mindanao Rural Development Prog-ram (MRDP), the DA’s flagship poverty alleviation program, is implementing on-the ground investments to salvage the degrading natural resources in Mindanao, particularly watershed.

Program director Lealyn A. Ramos said these watersheds have great agricultural potentials but are now less productive since they have been overly exploited and misused.

“Watershed sustains life form of plants, animals and human. And aside from providing water, it’s also the source of fiber, food, medicine and livelihoods but most of our watersheds are exploited beyond their capacity,” Ramos added.

To program is implementing environmental projects in 12 critical watersheds in all of the six regions in Mindanao.

These watersheds include RT Lim and Tungawan, Zamboanga Sibugay in Region 9; Linamon, Lanao del Norte and Sogbongcogon, Misamis Oriental in Region 10; Don Marcelino, Davao del Sur and San Isidro, Davao Oriental in Region 11; Kalamansig, Sultan Kudarat and Malapatan, Sarangani Province in Region 12; Nasipit, Agusan del Norte and Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte in Caraga Region and  Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao and Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“The sites were selected based certain criteria but most especially the interconnectivity of the upland, the lowland and the coastal areas,” Ramos said.

The program allocates a total of P7 million for each town beneficiary.

The projects implemented are agro-reforestation, river bank stabilization, mangrove rehabilitation, establishment of marine protected area, fish sanctuary and fishery reserves and coral restoration.

Ridge to reef

With focus on Mt. Hamiguitan in San Isidro, Davao Oriental watershed, the ridge-to-reef landscape is expected to nurture more diverse flora and fauna as the local government and MRPD implement a 136-hectare watershed rehabilitation with rubber-based farming on hilly lands amounting to close to P5 million. While, P2 million were earmarked on the coastal areas projects which include 7.5-hectare mangrove rehabilitation and setting up of five hectares fish sanctuary and marine reserves.

The Mt. Hamiguitan mountain range and wild life sanctuary was declared protected area under RA 9303 of 2002. It is home to Mandaya tribe, the Philippine Eagle, important raw materials and some highly prized natural bonsai forming the popular “pygmy forest.”

About three communities in Linamon town have engaged in agroforestry conservation and ecotourism development for its 12 hectares forest cover which house the one of province’s tourist spot the Tinago Falls.

The town of Don Marcelino has completed its 200-hectare Nuvada Watershed reforestation and has another on-going project.

Similarly, RT Lim town has completed the 100-hectare reforestation activities.

The coastal community of Kalamansig is now rearing mangroves planted to its 20 hectares coastal area which is part of its P2 million mangrove rehabilitation project.

The 100-hectare agro-reforestation program in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte is now thriving and the community is seeing the promise of its fruit trees.

While ARMM has planted various fruit-bearing trees in 128-hectare area in the mountains of Datu Odin Sinusat town and mangroves in a 15-hectare coast line.

Holistic approach

“We aim to holistically arrest the environmental problem. We know that activities in the upland areas have downstream impact in the low land communities and the coastal areas,” said Ramos.

“We started to implement these projects in 2008 and most of these hard investments were reported to be complete but we need to wait for the full gestation period to really see the impacts of these,” Ramos said noting that the program and the LGU beneficiaries are positive about the initial results of their efforts.

The report of the Bureau of Water and Soils Management (BSWM) said that in these watersheds, the soils, land and water resources are overly exploited resulting to low productivity of various farm areas.

BSWM is one of the attached agencies of the Program tasked to undertake technical support for the program along with Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP).

“With appropriate land use technology and farming systems we can revive the agricultural potential of these watersheds,” said Ramos, adding that:

“This (project) is in partnership with the LGUs. Aside from having direct helm of project implementation the vital role of the LGU is legislation the necessary ordinances to sustain and protect upland, lowland and coastal resources.”

No brownouts this summer, says DOE

BusinessWeek Mindanao
March 14, 2011

IN light of imminent power shortages seen in Mindanao, the Department of Energy is looking into adopting measures that will address the problem especially in the coming summer months.

During a forum in Cagayan de Oro last week, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said the power situation in Mindanao for the coming summer months is a cause for concern but is not critical.

Despite fears of a repeat of last summer’s rotating brownouts, Almendras said there is only a two week “critical” period when the Mindanao grid’s power reserves would be relatively thinner due to scheduled maintenance works on its major hydroelectric power plants which supply 55 percent of the island’s power mix.

Almendras said the Pulangi IV hydroelectric power plant in Bukidnon was originally scheduled to undergo a month long rehab this month but this is expected to be considerably shortened given the latest estimates of the National Power Corporation (Napocor).

“Even if only Pulangi is on maintenance, there should be no brownouts,” Almendras said. “The bigger challenge would be in May when the Agus hydroelectric plants are scheduled for rehab during the third week of May because our reserves would be much lower.”

Earlier, the DOE said that in addition to the supply augmentation program consisting of the transfer of power barges to the southern region, sale of electricity by big industrial firms with excess capacities and through voluntary curtailment, the Grid Operation Management Protocol (GOMP) will be implemented rigorously to ensure power supply reliability during unexpected generation plant shutdowns.

The DOE encourages consumers from all sectors to reduce electricity demand especially during peak hours by turning off equipment and appliance when not in use to avoid any power cuts.

Almendras said for whole month of January 2011, the Mindanao grid experienced only a one day Yellow Alert when reserves were lower relative to demand.

“The reason why we don’t have brownouts in 2011 is weather has been great,” he added.

However, Almendras said although Mindanao’s required reserves are 32 percent, the actual figures so far have been way below that.

“If one plant goes down or there is a surge in demand, system can’t respond,” he said. “You can never be 100 percent sure with power in any setting. That’s why we need every single megawatt of non-hydro generating capacity. Assuming walang nasisira we’re okay.”

In preparation for the expected two weeks Yellow Alert when the Agus and Pulangi plants will be down for maintenance, Almendras said the ERC is extending the ancillary service contracts of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines’ (NGCP) with Therma Marine Inc.’s M1 and M2 power barges to July 7, 2011.

“NGCP will have 100 MW available under the ASPA with another 82 MW firmed up in bilateral agreements with various power coops,” said Jovy Batiquin, TMI Chief Operating Officer said. “The balance of 18MW is available to NGCP anytime it needs it.”

As a further contingency, DOE also plans to move three of its power barges from Panay once the power situation in that island normalizes with the operation of new coal-fired power plants.

PB 101 has been tentatively scheduled for transfer to Mindanao by the fourth week of February, PB 102 by the third week of March and PB 103 by the first week of May.

Almendras assured forum participants the NGCP/TMI ASPA experienced

Mall projects spur speculation in Davao

BusinessWorld Online
March 09, 2011

DAVAO CITY — Prices of land near the two biggest mixed-use projects in this city have increased significantly since two years ago.
Carlos Omar A. Vargas, president of the Chamber of Real Estates and Builders Association Davao Chapter, said land prices doubled since the start of the Abreeza project of Ayala Land Inc. and Anflo Investment and Management Corp. located just about a kilometer away from the city proper.

SM Prime Holdings’ SM North Davao in Lanang district is also under construction and located on the same street as Abreeza’s but about six kilometers north.

“The search for vacant spaces near these two projects has been intensive considering investors are upbeat,” Mr. Vargas told BusinessWorld.

Officials of both Anflocor and Ayala previously announced the shopping mall would open middle of this year, although not one among the officials of the two companies in recent days could provide a firm schedule on the formal opening. Aside from the mall, also included in the plan are structures for other projects such as a contact center building, a hotel and a residential condominium.

SM City Lanang, on the other hand, is expected to open next year, although Debbie A. Go, SM manager for Mindanao operation also would not specify the opening date. Like Abreeza, SM City Lanang is also a mixed-use project and will have a shopping mall, the second in this city for the Sy-owned company, and an information technology center.

Mr. Vargas said a square meter of land in any of the areas between Abreeza and SM Lanang could go up to as high as P25,000, way above the roughly P10,000 per square meter price before these projects started two years ago.

Florizel C. Chavez, president of the local chapter of the Real Estate Brokers Association of the Philippines, said the level of speculation in this section of the city has been so high since the opening of the two projects is highly anticipated.

Mr. Chavez said he had received several inquiries from investors who want land or office spaces near these two projects.

“Prices change depending on how near the area [is] to these projects,” he said.

Abreeza, located on a 10-hectare site in the city’s Bajada district, is just across another big development, the Northpoint condominium complex of Camella Homes and just a hundred meters away from Victoria Plaza, the city’s first shopping mall built in late 1980s.

As a mixed-use project, Abreeza will have a shopping mall that will be anchored by Robinsons Retail Group, which has invested about P800 million to accommodate upscale shops of major foreign and local brands.

Vicky E. Tamano, a resident of nearby Buhangin district, said she hopes to join the droves of people expected to troop to Abreeza when it opens considering it would be the most sophisticated shopping destination in the city.

“Even if there are too many people going to [Abreeza] on its opening day, I will try to squeeze in,” said Ms. Tamano.

“We expect more businesses to locate to the city considering these latest developments,” said Roberto P. Alabado III, City Planning and Development Office head.

He said the sheer amount of investments in these two projects has spurred property price speculation.

Abreeza alone needs roughly P6 billion to be completed, he noted.

The anticipation for the opening of these two shopping complexes has also affected the prices of land in nearby subdivisions and other residential areas.

In Palm Village, which is less than a kilometer away from Abreeza, a landowner just sold his 300-square meter residential property to a Manila-based locator for over P10,000 per square meter.

However, not all prime properties in the area are available to investors or property speculators. For example, the 12-storey Durian Hotel, which is just a stone’s throw away from Abreeza, is not likely to be sold in the near term.

The hotel closed down in 2002 after its owner and contractor Bayani T. Escora failed to pay his bank loan.

Both the bank and Mr. Escora, however, did not want to talk about the issue since a case has been in court.

However, a former official of a company that previously expressed interest in buying the hotel from the bank claimed it was “priced too high.”

This city’s northern section also hosts several other shoppers’ enclaves such as Robinsons Cybergate, the Gaisano Mall of Davao aside from Victoria Plaza. Just about a few hundred meters away from where the new SM project is located is Damosa Land, another commercial site under the Anflocor Group.

Jason C. Magnaye, head of the city’s business promotions center, said the two biggest projects in the city as well as property developments in nearby areas could result in further traffic congestion and drainage problems.

The same observation was echoed by a former president of Davao City’s business chamber in an interview.

“The city government and the project proponents must be cautious enough in seeing to it that these projects will not become big problems for local residents,” said Roberto C. Quinto, former president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Abreeza is a project of Accendo Commercial Corp., a joint venture between Ayala Land and Anflocor of the Floirendo family. A hotel subsidiary of property giant Ayala Land, Inc. has started construction at its first boutique hotel project in Mindanao and the second in the country.

In November, Ayala Land broke ground at its first boutique hotel project in Taguig’s Bonifacio Global City.

Ayala Land, which is also into residential, office and mall development, plans to build boutique hotels in Alabang in Muntinlupa, Quezon City, and Cagayan de Oro in Misamis Oriental. — Carmelito Q. Francisco

Kaamulan: A grand tribal celebration

BusinessWeek Mindanao

MALAYBALAY CITY, Bukidnon – Thousands of people jammed the streets of Malaybalay City,  to get a taste of the province’s rich Bukidnon culture and heritage.

The fine weather encouraged droves of people with family members and friends for the Kaamulan 2011 dance competition and theatrical epics at the streets.

Bukidnon Gov. Alex Calingasan and Vice Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri led local and national government officials who took part of the festivities.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri and Malaysian Ambassador Dato’ Sri Anifah HJ Aman joined the event as guests of honor.

They were greeted by tribal dance groups that charmed the audience with their skillful performances of the “Ikat-Ikat ta dadalanen (street dances).”

In his speech, Sen. Zubiri said Kaamulan Festival in Bukidnon is probably one of the remaining few festivals in the Philippines that is still not commercialized and has retained its true essence.

Kaamulan is a celebration and gathering of the seven tribes of Bukidnon namely the Tala-andig, Higaonon, Umayamnon, Manobo, Tigwahanon, Matigsalug and Bukidnon.

The capitol ground stretch was a hive of activity as tourists and guests patronised many makeshift stalls and restaurants that served native and Bukidnon delicacies.By Ruby Leonora R. Balistoy.