LOCAL government units (LGUs) in Cebu should take advantage of the financial aid available at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to rebuild the economy that has been badly affected by the coronavirus disease (Covid- 19) pandemic and Typhoon Odette.

Undersecretary Anthony Gerard “Jonji” Gonzales of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (Opav) made this call when he spoke at the gala dinner for the ADB Board of Directors. The ADB board came to Cebu for a familiarization visit.

“The past couple of years has been a tough ride for Cebu, as much as it was for the rest of the country and the world,” Gonzales pointed out.

He then lauded Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, Sec. Michael Lloyd Dino for having brought together local leaders and key players to address the challenges brought about by the pandemic and Typhoon Odette.

Dino was able to bring together our leaders and key players here in Cebu and now we have a very peaceful and united political environment, he stressed.

“In these challenging times, I saw how Secretary Dino brought together the National Government Agencies, the private sector and our LGU leaders like Gov. Gwen Garcia and Mayor Mike Rama as they fought the effects of Covid and Super typhoon Odette,” Gonzales said.

He also expressed confidence over the outcome of the local elections. “With the elections coming, I am confident that the performance of our local leaders will secure them their seats and ensure continuity of what we have already started. With the united political front to continue, we are looking at a promising future for Cebu.” Cebu and the rest of the country continue to face the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as other major upheavals such as climate change, natural calamities, inflation, health worker shortage, rising energy and fuel costs, he noted.

A looming war has even worsened all of these existing challenges, Gonzales added.

Gonzales then stressed the need for LGUs to invest in the “essential components for healthy development.” He cited tourism, transportation, waste-to-energy, water supply and power projects as among those needed for economic development.

Cebu’s potential

Gonzales also urged the ADB to consider the potential of Cebu economy.

“Cebu is the second largest metropolis and the richest province in terms of assets in the country, thus it is endowed with endless opportunities,” he said.

As one of the tourism hub in the Visayas and the Philippines, Gonzales noted that Cebu ‘offers a wide avenue for potential investors.’ Transportation and tourism infrastructure for one needs to be upgraded as the population continues to grow, he pointed out.

Cebu was the first to push for an integrated intermodal transport system which consists of monorail, bus rapid transit system, and cable cars, all interconnected for our people’s ease of movement inasmuch as easing the traffic situation that would positively impact the local economy.

He also explained that ecotourism, which is one of the key tourism initiatives that protects the environment, “is also an investment worth exploring.”

Another potential in Cebu is the rise of digitalization and growth of e-commerce, he said. “This could be an an outlet for Cebuano creativity, which could be an area of growth that ADB might consider providing funds for startups using Web 3.0, a relatively new but very promising market.”

Gonzales then called on the LGUs to take advantage of the ‘rare opportunity to work together (with ADB) to rebuild a better Cebu and the Visayas after being devastated by Covid-19 and Typhoon Odette.

“I am confident as well that our friends from the Asian Development Bank who are here with us for the last couple of days have seen the potential of Cebu,” he said.

Gonzales disclosed that ADB had previously allocated US$600 million for loan in favor of the Philippines. “But with the able leadership of ADB Philippines executive director, Paul Dominguez, the amount is now at $3 billion.”

ADB offers loans, grants, technical assistance and debt management products to governments and public sector entities such as state owned enterprises in all developing member countries.

ADB loans have low interest of between 1.5 percent to four percent, depending on the type of loan and the payment period.

ADB had allocated a $2-million grant for the Typhoon Odette Emergency Response.

Also, it has approved a $1.75-million loan to help build three new climate-and-disaster-resilient bridges over the Marikina River. This project is part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Build, Build, Build thrust. (PR)