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Chamber veep for Visayas warns P-Noy admin of changing investment policies mid-stream

TAGBILARAN CITY, BOHOL – Francis Monera, vice president for Visayas region of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) is asking government to rethink its proposal to withdraw the PEZA incentives it is now extending to developers and locators in Manila and Cebu, saying it could send the wrong signal to investors that the country had policies that can be changed mid-stream anytime.
He warned that doing so is just like “changing horses in the middle of the race” and could set back the booming ICT and BPO industries in Cebu and Manila. “We should protect the core” he said, “if we want the rest of the country to grow.”
“The mere fact that you are changing policies midstream will send a bad signal to our foreign investors. You can just imagine how they are feeling right now that they would be in a country where policies can easily be changed midstream”, Monera warned.
Monera gave this warning in reaction to a pronouncement of Monchito Ibrahim, director for ICT development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that there is a proposal to withdraw the incentives of PEZA registered businesses in Manila and Cebu, to encourage incoming investors to turn their attentions to the so-called “next wave cities”.
Ibrahim was a plenary speaker of the 21st Visayas Business Conference that is ongoing in this city, by the PCCI. He spoke on “Sustaining the Growth of the KPO/BPO for the Visayas region”, underscoring that the country is now number one in the world when it comes to voice services and there is still room for more growth, as the Philippines tries to wrestle the top spot on data services from India.
Ibrahim said that the Aquino administration is targeting that by the year 2016, the country should have at least 1.3-million people directly employed by BPO’s and one-half of them dispersed in the countryside, aside from Manila and Cebu. The “next wave cities” were identified as this city (Tagbiliran), Davao and Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao, Bacolod and Iloilo in Central Visayas, Tacloban and the cities of Samar island in Eastern Samar, aside from others in the National Capital Region.
He said this is to spread the sunshine industry over the country, and its spillover benefits.  And a strategy they are thinking of is to withdraw or stop the PEZA incentives of developers and locators in Metro Manila and Cebu, to force investors to look for other areas.
However, Monera reacted to this saying that “the way to move forward is to move together”, recounting how Cebu leaders had to overcome their differences just to attract BPO’s over. He said that Cebu’s move to unify efforts opened the doors of opportunities to the country, enabling it to position as one of the world’s top KPO/BPO destinations. Cebu is ranked number 8, Ibrahim himself said in his report.
“The key is collaboration”, pointed out Monera, and “you don’t disperse the opportunities and kill the core. Cebu has put the Philippines and Visayas into the global picture, but if you look at the figures, Cebu only has about 30 percent of the market.”
Cebu’s potential, he said, has not yet been maximized and a withdrawal of PEZA incentives can create a backlash.  “Cebu is still trying to (fully) capture the market… It will not mean that if Cebu declines, the other areas will grow”, he said.
He also pointed out that while Cebu is still the favorite BPO destination of investors,  the benefits it bring are not limited to the island. During the construction phase alone, he said, they have to bring in workers from other regions. The BPOs themselves recruit from other regions.
Monera pointed out that these “next wave cities” can only capture the market if they have the right infrastructure that the KPO/BPO’s need. Taking the case of Tagbilaran, while there are already investors looking at the city for their BPO businesses, there are concerns like reliable internet connections and the city’s reluctance to have PEZA-registered businesses because they are not paying taxes. By Lalaine M. Jimenea



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