Business as usual in Cebu despite political standoff

by Kathleen A. Martin,

Posted at Jan 24 2013 05:19 PM | Updated as of Jan 25 2013 01:19 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The continuing political standoff in Cebu's provincial capitol did not in any way dampen the business climate in the province, officials of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) said on Thursday.

Suspended Cebu governor Gwen Garcia holds out.

"We have been asked a number of times if it has affected the business environment [in Cebu] but we believe it did not. We just focused on business and that's how independent the business community is," Prudencio J. Gesta, president of the CCCI, said in a briefing in Makati.

"Of course for the Cebu chamber, we wish that the political issues would end but that is already in the courts," Gesta noted.

A political drama has unfolded in the Cebu provincial capitol since December, after governor Gwen Garcia was served a suspension order from Malacañang for grave abuse of authority.

But the suspended governor protested the order in the form holing up in her office at the Capitol since Dec. 19, although she shortly stepped out of the building to dance at the Sinulog festival earlier this week.

Gesta said the chamber, being apolitical, keeps its hands off the issue.

"We just continue our advocacy for business growth and development," Gesta said.

The province is set to welcome businessmen and government delegates from almost 30 other countries as the CCCI will be hosting the 27th Confederation of Asia-Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry Conference on March 14-15.

"The conference on March ... is a golden opportunity. What we're looking at is that these foreigners including the local businessmen will take a closer look at Cebu and the things Cebu can offer," Lito R. Maderazi, vice president for finance and administration at CCCI, said during the same briefing.

"We are confident that we can generate investments as well as opportunities for our fellow chamber members," he continued.

The conference is expected to be attended by delegates from business chambers in Asia Pacific, as well as those from other parts of the Philippines.

Francis O. Monera, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice-president for the Visayas, said in the same briefing the conference will not only be a venue to rake investments for Cebu but also for other parts of the Philippines as well.

"It's not just investments in Cebu that we're hoping for, the Philippine economy as a whole is also very attractive for investments," Monera said.

Monera enumerated the favorable macroeconomic factors the Philippines is currently enjoying such as the stable inflation rate, low interest rates, strong peso, and much interest in the local stock market, that can attract foreign businessmen to pour in their money in the country.

Maderazi said the chamber is looking forward to the conference in order to make Cebu known to the regional business community as an investment destination.

"We are hoping that [through this conference] we are also branding Cebu as an investment destination," Maderazi pointed out.

Gesta boasted that Cebu is a prime location for businesses amid its very good supply of power, capable telecommunication infrastructure, as well as water supply.

Monera also noted that the business community is also working on improving peace and order in Cebu, despite already being "relatively peaceful" as compared to other nearby provinces. He added transparency and good governance will also allow investors to do business easily in Cebu.

The Philippine government is gearing up for the auction of the P17-billion Mactan Cebu International Airport project which will develop and expand the gateway.

Gesta said the modernization of the Mactan-Cebu airport will put the province in a better advantage to attract more business investments, as well as tourists.