Duterte looking outside 'Imperial Manila' seen to boost Visayas, Mindanao

Joel Guinto, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2016 11:06 AM

Duterte looking outside 'Imperial Manila' seen to boost Visayas, Mindanao 1
Former saleslady, Liza Anito, prepares a presentation video for a condominium property at the local mall in Davao city. She plans to attend President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's victory party on Saturday. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

DAVAO CITY – Single father Janro Penion was out of work when his contract as a waiter ended two years ago, until he became a sales agent for a high rise condominium that showcases President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's push to redirect economic activity to urban centers in the south.

The 71-year-old tough-talking mayor has vowed to build economic centers in the Visayas and Mindanao, home to roughly half of the country's 100 million people, as he dismissed the crowded capital,
Manila, as a "dead city."

"We used to envy Manila when it had all the tall buildings and at the same time the wages there are higher compared to the province," Penion told ABS-CBN News at his mall showroom.

"But now, we can see that Davao is progressive. People want to have a house here and condominium developers don't want to get left behind," said the 25-year-old, who now earns four times his waiter's salary excluding commissions.

Farm owners, petrol station operators and other big businessmen from surrounding provinces over a hundred kilometers away have been snapping up property in Davao both as a second home and a place for their children who study in the city's big universities, Penion said.

Duterte looking outside 'Imperial Manila' seen to boost Visayas, Mindanao 2
A man looks at a scale model of a residential condominium property at a local mall in Davao city. People from surrounding provinces have been buying properties in Davao as a second home as the economy improves. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

The 37-floor Vivaldi Residences, one of the city's tallest, is 80-percent sold two years before it is scheduled to open, Penion said.

Its towering cranes are one of many that dot the city's skyline.


Real estate and business process outsourcing (BPO) investments have begun to flow to the provinces under Duterte's predecessor, outgoing President Benigno Aquino III, but his policy direction could convince more businessmen to look outside "Imperial Manila," BDO Unibank chief market strategist Jonathan Ravelas said.

"The tilt of growth is eventually towards Visayas and Mindanao," Ravelas told ABS-CBN News.

"In Duterte's case, being the first Mindanaoan president, he is able to hasten that potential growth. He can facilitate it," he said.

Ahead of Duterte's assumption into office on June 30, companies with a considerable footprint in Mindanao or are planning major investments there, have seen their share prices rise, he said.

Ravelas cited mall operators Metro Gaisano and Double Dragon, power producers Alsons Consolidated Resources and Aboitiz Power, as well as Phoenix Petroleum and Pryce Corp.

But while poised for growth, decades-long communist and Muslim insurgencies and a lack of infrastructure could turn off some investors, Ravelas said.

"People tend to fear going to Mindanao. We need to take out that bad connotation... We have the macroeconomic conditions already. I don't see any other reason why big companies won't come," he said.


Residents of this southern metropolis, where Duterte had served as mayor for two decades, believe he can fulfill his promise to spread the wealth outside the capital.

Hundreds of thousands are expected to attend a street party on Saturday to celebrate the victory of the first president-elect from Mindanao.

Real estate agent Liza Anito, 29, told ABS-CBN News she would find time to attend the party before she flies to Singapore for a vacation.

As a mall saleslady five years ago, Anito said she could barely support her family, earning just P4,000 a month, and with her contract expiring every six months.

Riding on the real estate boom, Anito is now able to support both her family and her two-year-old daughter as well as go on holidays abroad.

"Mayor (Duterte) is proven and tested. When he promises something, we know he will do it," she said.