AFTER a series of conferences held in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia last year, Cebu will take its turn in hosting the Southeast Asian Creative Cities Network (SEACCN) next month.

SEACCN is a network for creative cities and clusters in Southeast Asia. It is an open group with a focus on Southeast Asia and an emphasis on the second cities with representatives from the cities, agencies, specialists, experts, groups, and communities.

The network’s initial members include George Town (Penang, Malaysia), Bandung (Indonesia), Cebu (Philippines) and Chiang Mai (Thailand).

Department of Trade and Industry-Cebu Director Nelia Navarro said Cebu’s hosting is a welcome development, as it will help solidify the Philippines’ role within the Asean creative network, as well as open opportunities for possible cross-collaboration and expansion within Asean.

“Our improvement since we promoted Cebu as a creative city is that we are now beyond our borders and that the Cebu Creative Council is already linked with our counterparts in other countries,” said Navarro. “We are on the right track.”

Navarro believes the fastest way for the country to integrate among its Asean neighbors is through people, culture and arts. This networking and cross-collaboration allows movements of products and services and also generates more employment opportunities.

For Cebu, Navarro said its strength is in its creative entrepreneurs.

“We are characterized by openness, inclusiveness, and a fearless hands-on approach to industry that Cebuanos are known everywhere for,” she said.

In 2008, Cebu City was recognized by the British Council as the Creative Capital of the Philippines.

The fourth SEACCN forum, which will be held on June 25 at the City Sports Club Cebu, is part of the celebration of the creative industries week during the Cebu Business Month. It is anchored on the theme Authenti-cities: Identity and Unity in Diversity.

The day-long forum hopes to increase public awareness on the value of creativity, culture and innovation as drivers of economic development and export growth; intensify education and appreciation of the market opportunities for Cebu’s creative goods and services while encouraging more business for creative enterprises; exchange best practices in the Asean creative network; and support the Cebu’s tourism as provider of creative goods and services to both foreign and local markets.

Speakers of the forum include officers from the Bandung Creative City, Creative Cebu Council, Creative Chiang Mai, Think City Penang, World Intellectual Property Organization, Asia-Europe Foundation, experts from Singapore and British Council-East Asia Creative Industries.

Some 200 participants from various sectors are expected to attend the forum.