- Yas D. Ocampo
Davao pushes for better ties, deals, with China
Davao gears up for inclusive progress fueled by accelerated investments, not the least coming from China. (Resurgent Photo)
There’s big talk about the paradigm shift to China, and political economists have ranted and raved at the maverick move. But somewhere down South, a city is quietly walking the talk, and Yas D. Ocampo tells us how.
As the Philippines extends a friendlier hand towards its neighbor China, President Duterte’s own hometown of Davao City is fast reaping benefits of the new partnership.
The improvements have come on the heels of his state visit to China earlier this year.
A week later, a delegation of Davao officials headed to Shanghai to speak with businessmen seeking opportunities in the southern city of the Philippines.
The group was led by Duterte’s son, Paolo, the vice mayor of Davao.
The results have been fruitful.
City Councilor Bernard Al-ag, who was part of the team, said that a recently-unveiled port and mixed-use development project in Davao City was among those that reaped the immediate benefits.
This was the Mega Harbour Port Development Corporation, which has received financing support from Chinese firms for its proposed P39 billion slum development and port reclamation project.
The 200-hectare project will commence construction next year.
Filipino developer Mega Harbour has partnered with China Harbour Engineering for the project, part of a total of $15 billion in investments taken home by the visits.
Al-ag, who sits as the majority floor leader of the city council, reported that the Chinese businessmen have also proposed to open the markets in China for more products, especially high value crops such as bananas.
China is among the recipients of imported bananas from the Philippines, with both nations producing the crop and China in need of more products. The difference is in the climate, with China’s winter interfering with yields.
China seeks to import pineapples, papayas, and mangoes from its new friend, the Philippines.
As the country’s “food basket,” Davao has long been a major producer of these products. Its fruits alternate among durian, pomelo, avocado, and cacao, among others.
“They want to buy our agricultural products,” Al-ag said.
Aside from this, China’s businessmen are also interested in other areas of investment, such as manufacturing and real estate.
The city is ripe for development, especially with the election of President Duterte.
The president has adopted a more “federalized" approach to governance, regularly leaving for trips outside the traditional seat of government in Malacanang, an hour and a half’s travel away from his hometown.
Davao has regularly become his weekend stop, spreading himself out to the different island groups of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao every week to reach as many constituents as possible.
This makes the city ripe for real estate ventures, with the traditional seat of government making way for the unconventional Duterte who holds office in a secure facility in Panacan, known to Dabawenyo journalist and government circles as "Panacañang," a wordplay on his official residence, Malacañang.
And such an industry is ripe with potential, with property values now lower by as much as 200% the actual value of lands at the moment. City Hall is still in the slow, painstaking process of reassessing its own land values.
This reality alone makes it the perfect time to invest in the city’s commercial, residential, and industrial zones.
However, Davao City is still working on being a destination for industrial projects.
Al-ag laments that the city does not have industrial parks accredited by the Philippine Export Zone Authority, which the businesses from China are seeking.
“They want to build manufacturing plants, but we have no industrial parks,” he said.
The nearest one, the Davao Integrated Container Terminal of Anflocor, is an hour’s drive away in Panabo.
Meanwhile, Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio said that the direct effects of the Philippine visits to China in terms of investments has yet to be seen, but will be anticipated.
Aside from Beijing and Shanghai, another city has offered to bring its shores closer to the Southern Philippine city, with commercial aircraft to and from Xiamen already flying exploratory routes this year.
The new flight coincides with a resurgence of Chinese interests here.
The shift in geopolitics comes three years after the Philippines formally filed a claim at The Hague Tribunal, with the Philippines insisting all parties conform with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The international court handed down this year its decision favoring the Philippines, only days before the formal entry of Duterte to the Presidency.
But aside from the bullish investment outlook, the most potent symbol of renewed ties between the two nations have been the Filipino fishermen off the once-heavily contested Scarborough Shoal who are now able to sail and harvest their catch without reprisal.
A far cry from not so long ago when the mere sight of a banca on what has long been held as our traditional fishing grounds would trigger a hostile rebuke from the China Coast Guard and People's Liberation Army Air Force.
But that was then.
Today, as our fisherfolk head off to their fishing grounds with gratitude and optimism, the country itself seems headed to less hostile, and more bountiful, territory.