A year of preparation

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Saturday, January 4, 2014


FOR Cebu’s business sector, 2014 will be a year of preparations.

Two major international events may be a year or two away, but those in business expect these events to benefit Cebu starting this year. The Philippines will be hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting in 2015, while Cebu has been chosen as the venue for the International Eucharistic Congress in January 2016.

But even before these events take place, Cebu can expect international delegations to start arriving to check on the venues, making business activity, especially in tourism, busier than ever.

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Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants Association of Cebu (HRRAC) president Cenelyn Manguilimotan noted that Cebu is expected to host at least three senior officials’ meetings for the Apec, with delegates expected to reach 3,000. She added that each delegation is expected to have staff, security and family members tagging along, which will add to the occupancy numbers of city hotels.

Journalists covering the event will also be another market for them. She added that Cebu has been chosen as a second option for three other meetings, which means it has to be prepared to host should the first choice be unable to do so.

15,000 church guests

As for the International Eucharistic Congress, Manguilimotan believes this will be an even bigger event as they expect 15,000 foreign participants.

As it is scheduled after the Sinulog, Manguilimotan said Cebu’s establishments will be busier than ever. Before that happens, she said groups will be arriving this year to assess locations.

For Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Lito Maderazo, 2014 also means preparing for the Asean Economic Community. The organization’s Cebu Business Month theme will be centered on the integration and they hope to bring a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges the integration will bring when it is implemented in 2015.

Maderazo noted that they have already established linkages with other chambers around the Asia Pacific, after the hosting of the Confederation of Asia Pacific Chambers of Commerce and Industry (CACCI) conference last March.

They hope that after that, they can broaden their perspective around Southeast Asia so they can take advantage of the market available to them.

“We are located in the middle of Asean, which means we are very easy to reach,” he said.

One way Cebu can find opportunities in the integration is to know what products other countries are known for. He cited the gems that are widely available in Myanmar that Cebu’s accessories designers can make use of.

Sustain their interest

While he acknowledged the business these international events will bring for Cebu, Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Phillip Tan cited the need for regular events to ensure tourists are in Cebu year-round and not just come in for a season.

Tan urged stakeholders in tourism not to neglect the domestic market, saying a good mix of foreign and domestic tourists is ideal for a more sustainable tourism program.

He also hopes government will enable an environment suitable for business while companies should ensure they are productive, efficient and operate with lower costs.

The country’s workers, he said, should also make sure they are qualified to work internationally, rather than just be qualified to work in the Philippines. He said that once integration is implemented, professionals may find themselves challenged by more qualified workers from neighboring countries.

“The Philippine standard needs to be at par with that of the world. If we are, then we only have a few steps to take to become fully prepared for integration,” he explained.

What concerns him and Cebu Business Club president Gordon Alan Joseph is how the country has prepared itself for integration compared with other Asean-member countries.

“I expect 2014 to be the year of preparation for Asean integration in 2015. And of course, we are way behind schedule compared to Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and possibly, even Indonesia,” he said.

One thing he hopes 2014 will bring is to see the plan for the Mega Cebu project. He said a team of Japanese and Filipino experts began an integrated development plan for Metro Cebu, consisting of 13 local government units from Danao City to Carcar City.

The study will be finished in 18 months and the first recommendations are expected to be published this April.

“Although the physical effects of this plan will take 12 to 36 months to be realized, this is finally a step in the right direction. There has been no development planning conducted for Cebu since the excellent McLuts Plan undertaken in the 1980s, which was backed up by late studies in the 1990s, but which, until today, is not fully implemented and which has never been updated, again, because of politics,” Joseph said.

He believes 2014 will be a challenging year for consolidation, planning and recovery.

“We do need to recover from the catastrophes, and we do need to bring back the tourists. And we need to begin addressing the concerns of potential investors. If we can do this, then 2014 will be a year of preparation for serious growth in 2015 and onwards,” he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 04, 2014.

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