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Baybay’s biz friendly policies wow Ormoc Chamber tourists

Mayor Carmen L. Cari of Baybay with the Ormoc Chamber officers and members in a pose for posterity after a dialog with her about the city’s investment code. At the mayor’s back are Mr. and Mrs. Iñigo Larrazabal, Troy Bumagat, Michael Chua, Denmark and Diomedes Gillesania, Jeff Ty, Ormoc Chamber president Joel Brazil and Engr. Armando Meneses.

BAYBAY CITY – 36 officers and members of the Ormoc City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc., led by president Joel Brazil, had a field trip to this city on Wednesday, September 4, and were impressed with the city’s initiatives in inviting investors, especially its policy on ensuring cheap reliable, electricity to industrial locators.
The Ormoc Chamber, in a tour that started at the SC Coco Global, Inc. at Brgy. Caridad here and ended at the City Mayor’s Office by afternoon, learned that Baybay already has a “working” investment code for years now, which has long been implemented. The city also has a long-standing policy of letting industrial locators connect directly to the power source rather than pass through the local electric cooperative.
The latter is considered vital by the industrial locators because they need reliable power round-the-clock. The lower cost of power also makes their operations viable and more profitable, compared to other areas in the province like the oil mills in Tanauan.
Mayor Cari said they are aware of the shortcomings of the electric cooperative to provide for the power needs of big industrial users, and rather than burden the ordinary consumers with increases because it has to invest in equipment just to meet the power needs of these big consumers, to just allow them direct connection to the source.
Meanwhile, Joel Brazil, president of the Ormoc Chamber, said the field trip to Baybay was “worthwhile”.
He said the chamber should do more field trips in the future, to learn of what business opportunities are available there, and learn from the visits.
Other members equally appreciated the field trip and hopes there would be more members who’d come by the next trip.
Baybay’s Investment Code
Mayor Carmen L. Cari said that the city’s investment code was crafted during the time of her son and now first-term congressman Jose Carlos L. Cari, when Baybay was still a municipality.
Under the code, industrial locators are given a 5-year tax holiday from local taxes, aside from whatever incentives they get on the national level from the Board of Investments.
However, she said they are now in the process of reviewing the provisions of the code and possibly make amendments, like decreasing the tax holiday period to only three years.
They’d also like to classify the incentives given to the industries, aiming to invite more labor-intensive locators so that more locals would find employment.
Be as it is, she said, Baybay’s industrial plants hire around 1,000 people directly, and benefits a few thousands more indirectly. “They have contractuals, hire seasonal workers, and get their raw materials from our farmers”, said the mayor.
The industries are mostly agriculture based like SC Coco Global, the world’s biggest organic virgin coconut oil producer that has expanded its products from coco-oil and copra by-products to exporting banana chips; the Visayan Oil Mill; the Specialty Pulp Milling Inc. (SPMI) which exports processed abaca fibers and the upcoming coco-coir plant at Brgy. Maybog.
SC Global, on the other hand, is adding another plant to their operations, that is coco-water production for the European and Western market.
The Ormoc Chamber decided to conduct a field trip to Baybay City, following the footsteps of the Southern Leyte chamber which has dubbed the city as the “new industrial hub” of Leyte Province.
At the SC Global
The Ormoc Chamber’s first stop was at the SC Global where the manager, Manny Licup, walked their visitors through their operations with a PowerPoint presentation.
SC Global, he said, currently produces organic virgin coconut oil, cooking oil, other copra by-products and banana chips. The plant went into banana chip making after coco oil prices slumped a few years ago, to sustain its operations and prevent layoffs. The “alternative” industry proved to be profitable that management decided to pursue it as well.
By January 2013, he said, they will be producing coco-water, coco flour, and dessicated coconut. Again, he said, just like their other products, all would be certified export quality. It will have the HACCP which is a mandatory certification for food safety; the French ECO certification; Halal and Kosher certifications.
Licup also surprised Ormoc Chamber members that contrary to perception that they only dealt with the export market, they also sell to the local market. He said locals can buy cooking oil from them in bulk, package it and name it as they please. Same with their other products, too, he said.
He also touched briefly on why they chose Baybay as their location. First, he said, it had ample supply of coconut. Second, it already had “sound and good infrastructure, good roads and telecommunications. Baybay’s farm-to-market roads are good”, he said.
Third, cheap and reliable power. “Baybay is unique. We are in a loop. If Ormoc side fails, we get from Southern Leyte. Our cost is lower since we are connected directly to TransCo. Leyeco had the right to refuse that we connect directly, but in support to the industry, we were allowed to.”
In comparison to similar industries in the region, like the oil mills in Tanauan, the EC there did not allow direct connection, he said, and they are paying more. “We are paying around P 5.00 per kwh while they are paying around P 8.00 per kwh”.
Then, there is Baybay’s incentive code which gave them a 5-year tax holiday. This year, SC Coco Global started paying their local business taxes after the 5-year period ended.
He also lauded local leadership’s “after care”. Citing two instances, he said that one time, they were loading oil on a foreign vessel and it cannot sail because they lacked potable water.
The mayor (then Mayor Michael L. Cari) readily lent them the fire truck but did not stop there. The next day, the mayor requested the water district to install a pipeline up to the end of the port in the event another similar need arises.
Then, just recently, on December 2011, a small fire broke out within the plant and as SOP of oil plants, they immediately rang the fire alarm. Upon hearing this, Mayor Carmen Cari immediately called up the fire stations of VSU, Albuera and Ormoc to come, even without prompting. Licup said that they were able to control the fire early on, and it was already out before the fire trucks came, but pointed out that was how the LGU is always there to support them.
He also pointed out that having the Visayas State University nearby was definitely an advantage, with its learning and research centers for coconut, abaca, and root crops.
In ending his presentation, he challenged the Ormoc businessmen to look seriously into opportunities that the plants in Baybay were opening up to them.
He said that when their coco-water plant is operational, they would need 200,000 mature nuts a day. They would buy it de-husked already.
He said that the water from the mature nuts will be for coco-water, and the meat for their dessicated coconut, coco sugar and oil needs. The remaining pulp would then be made into coco press or pellets, which is a feed ingredient. The shell, on the other hand, can be turned into charcoal or fuel for their boilers.
He said the plant has a “zero waste” policy that they even turn their banana peel into pellets, also a feed ingredient. At first, he said, they had to pay cattle growers to get their banana peel. Now, after acquiring the technology to turn it into pellets, they sell it to cattle growers.
As for the husks, he said, it will find a ready buyer at the plant in Maybog that would be producing coco-coir or mesh.
At the VSU, a
resort-university
The group’s next stop was the Visayas State University. Jesus Freddy Baldos, information officer, acted as the tour guide and brought the group first to the nature museum.
The museum, said Jens Kruska, president of the chamber-organized Ormoc City Travel and Tour Operators Association, would be a good stop for educational tour packages.
The group was also brought to the Philippine Center for Root Crops where Elsie Umpad gave a short overview of the products they produce from root crops like cassava flour, ethanol, catsup, camote and taro wine and many others.
Next stops were the Philippine Coconut Research Center and the Philippine Abaca Research Center where guests took a peek at the laboratory where plant geneticists grow macapuno, other coconut varieties and pest-resistant abaca through tissue culture.
The group was also brought to the food lab where food technologists produce export quality vacuum-fried jackfruit. They also produce dehydrated jackfruit.
Kabkab tasting and real Baybayano barbeque
The group, for a minimal fee of P 150.00 each, had a sumptuous lunch at the VSU Guesthouse where they had a taste of the best of Baybay food, among them the “kabkab” (cassava tacos bathed in latik), cassava chips of various flavors, cassava cake cooked the traditional way, and of course, the famed Baybay barbeque marinated in milk and cooked without coloring, among other viands.
Courtesy call with
Mayor Cari
After getting the rates of the rooms and cost of lodging at VSU for the travel and tour operators, the gave the mayor a courtesy call.
With the mayor to explain the nitty-gritty of their investment policies were city councilor Atty. Edgardo Butawan and Josephine K. Granada, the city tourism and investment officer.
Granada, who coordinated the tour with the Ormoc Chamber, said that they could not include SPMI in the itinerary because the officer-in-charge for such activities was unavailable. Butawan said the council will pass a resolution urging SPMI to appoint a particular staff for plant tours, so that when the educational-industrial tour that they are packaging takes off, the plant will not be missed out.
As for protecting the environs, Butawan said that they have a tri-partite monitoring team. The LGU is a member.
Mayor Cari and Butawan also explained that to assist the industries in investing in Baybay, they go all out to help them, even if they have to bridge them with the communities to acquire the lands they need.
“Remember, there are no big tracts of land in Baybay. We’ve been under agrarian reform. The largest is two hectares. So when the industries come in, we help them convince the owners and some concessions include employing at least one member of the family”, Butawan said.
Granada, on the other hand, said the LGU has an “empowered” investment promotion team, saying it has experts in various fields as members like a lawyer, an engineer, etcetera.
“We don’t stop at inviting them. After they come in, we have our after care program to ensure that they are okay”, she said.
Mayor Carmen Cari also told the Ormoc Chamber to look around Baybay for possible investment areas like putting up a hotel, convention facilities, private memorial parks, a good restaurant, and other endeavors.
She also announced that the city would soon have its 6th bank, with the Bank of the Philippine Islands opening soon.
She added that since their field trip to Baybay, Engr. Robert Castañares of the Southern Leyte Chamber has been coming back to them many times already and is pushing that Maasin City and other towns copy their incentive code. She hopes the Ormoc Chamber will also make a repeat visit, and assured their office is ready anytime to assist them. By LMJ



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