Innovative program eyed to revive Marawi economy

The Philippine government plans to put up a community-based economic zone in Marawi City to help its economy bounce back from ruin and create jobs plus livelihood opportunities for its returning residents, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III. 

Dominguez briefly detailed this plan as part of the rehabilitation program for the war-torn city in his recent meeting with top officials of the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. (SMBC) led by its Group CEO and president, Takeshi Kunibe. 

The finance chief also said that besides providing residents with basic necessities such as water and electricity, the government would also provide them with access to the Internet so that the small, community-based industries set up within the ecozone could take part in e-commerce tie ups through online selling platforms such as lazada.com.ph and alibaba.com. 

Dominguez said the community ecozone in Marawi will not supply large companies, but would primarily serve as a tool to help open economic opportunities for its struggling residents.

Kunibe, in turn, expressed SMBC’s willingness to assist the Philippines in its reconstruction and rehabilitation program for Marawi, and congratulated President Duterte on his administration’s successful effort to liberate the city from the influence of ISIS-inspired extremists. 

“We appreciate your enthusiasm in taking part in the rehabilitation efforts for Marawi. As part of this rehabilitation program, we are planning to put up a community-based economic zone in the area for small industries, local food processing and small foundries,” Dominguez told the Bank’s officials during a meeting held at the SMBC head office Tokyo, Japan. 

SMBC, which declared on its website non-consolidated total assets of 162.3 trillion yen, is the second largest banking institution in Japan in terms of assets. 

Besides Kunibe, the other SMBC officials at the meeting were Fumio Hoshi, senior advisor; Shosuke Mori, senior managing executive officer; and Taro Hayashi, managing executive officer. 

In the meeting, SMBC officials noted that there is a healthy appetite for Samurai bonds in the Japanese market. 

Dominguez earlier said that the Philippine government plans to launch Samurai bonds in the future, with the dates depending on market conditions. 

Also present at the meeting was Jose Leviste, the chairman of Atlantic Gulf and Pacific Company and Oceana Gold Philippines, who expressed interest in opening business partnerships with SMBC and its affiliates and clients. 

Besides the reconstruction and rehabilitation efforts for Marawi City, the meeting also touched on issues involving opportunities in the tourism sector and the financial markets in the Philippines. 

Dominguez said earlier that the end of the drawn-out conflict in Marawi City will further boost investor confidence in the economy, more so now that the government can focus on a comprehensive plan to reconstruct the southern city and provide economic opportunities for its returning residents. 

He noted that   the record performance of the stock market following President Duterte’s announcement last month of the “liberation” of Marawi City from Islamist militants pointed to the positive investor sentiment on the end of the conflict. 

Dominguez had noted that even with the crisis in Marawi City and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, the business community has remained bullish on the economy and supported the President’s decisive action to deal with the terrorist attack. 

President Duterte created last July an interagency task force chaired by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that will spearhead the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation program for Marawi City. 

Although the Department of Finance (DOF) is not a member of the Task Force, it is involved in the fund-raising aspect of the program, with Dominguez revealing plans last August for the Bureau of Treasury to sell “patriotic” bonds to aid in Marawi’s rehabilitation.

In an earlier meeting with Dominguez in Washington DC, World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva reaffirmed the institution’s commitment to work with the Philippine government in helping conflict-torn Marawi City rise from devastation, along with scaling up support for peace-building efforts in Mindanao.

Georgieva said the World Bank can provide technical aid and other forms of assistance to the Philippines to help rebuild Marawi City. 

Georgieva also agreed with Dominguez’s plan to tap domestic resources to raise funds for Marawi’s reconstruction, which, she said, was “the right thing to do” and underscored the importance of “inclusive development” as a key aspect of the rehabilitation strategy for the city.