Mindanao businesses want gov’t to resume infrastructure projects

THE Mindanao business community wants the government to restart its infrastructure projects in the region as the economy reopens.

Mindanao is transitioning to fewer lockdown restrictions, with 75% of industrial and commercial businesses reopened, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said at the 29th Mindanao Business Conference on Thursday.

In its recommendations, the business group urged the government to resume infrastructure projects such as the Marawi rehabilitation shelters, Mindanao-Visayas interconnection, Mindanao Railway, Panguil Bay bridge, rehabilitation of hydropower complexes, and airport expansion.

The PCCI also asked the Finance department to prioritize funding for road infrastructure development programs to “efficiently transport raw materials from agricultural areas to main processing or manufacturing centers.”

At the same event, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the government continues to prioritize infrastructure projects in Mindanao.

“Mindanao is at the front and center of the ‘Build, Build, Build’ infrastructure program. The DoF has been able to secure financing for some infrastructure and peace-building projects in the region even amidst the pandemic,” he said in a speech during the conference.

He said the government signed the P18.5-billion loan agreement with the Japanese government in June to finance the Davao City bypass construction project, and a P1.4-billion grant from the European Union for development and peace-building programs in Mindanao.

“These projects also demonstrate the Duterte administration’s commitment to move Mindanao from the margins, and transform it into the center of agriculture and industry,” Mr. Dominguez added.

Meanwhile, PCCI Mindanao also sought faster telecommunication cell tower approvals, and to allow private telcos to secure access to existing tower facilities to improve internet bandwidth.

The business group said the interagency task force on the coronavirus should include regional private sector groups in its discussions of lockdown guidelines.

PCCI Mindanao also asked the government to boost healthcare capacity by establishing more COVID-19 testing labs, and to use digital technologies for contact tracing.

The group also said the Board of Investments and local governments should offer incentives to companies investing in the healthcare sector.

PCCI Mindanao said the Trade department should help assist and financially support local chambers in helping prepare micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) in applying for government loans.

State banks should also restructure loan terms and maturity dates for microfinance institutions to reopen credit assistance to microenterprises in retail or services sectors, they said.

PCCI Mindanao said microenterprises capitalized below P3 million should be exempted from income tax and minimum wage adjustments.

The Trade, Science and Technology and Labor departments should also immediately roll out their retraining programs for MSME workers in sectors considered nonessential, they said. — Jenina P. Ibanez and Beatrice M. Laforga

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