NORTHERN Mindanao will be asserting its role as the gateway to the second largest island in the country and the industrial core and trade center of the south.

This as the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda-10) sees the potential of the region being the most competitive, efficient, and attractive transhipment and venue for industrial ventures, as well as the leader in high-value agri-based and fishery products.

Leon M. Dacanay, Neda-10 regional director, said that the competitive advantage of region 10 is its vast agricultural lands; natural resources; a huge potential for industrial development; presence of power generation; and where peace loving people, skilled and literate work force reside.

Neda said Mindanao would be at the forefront when the Philippines is integrated with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) starting 2015.

Dacanay said that Mindanao’s preparation for the Asean Integration is outlined in the goals and objectives of Neda from 2016-2030, to face the challenges in the years to come.

Neda is projecting that Mindanao would have an annual real growth of gross domestic product at 7-8 percent in 2016 and 8-10 percent in 2020 to 2030.

Dacanay said that in the near future, at least 90 percent of the national roads in Mindanao are paved and in good condition as well as the water-based transport services within the island including the establishment of a limited railway system.

“This would include the upgrading of main arterial roads into world-class, all-weather highways and build new ones where necessary,” Dacanay said.

Neda said that by 2030, the water-based transport services are common feature of an integrated multi-modal Mindanao transport system – coherent and interactive array of interdependent network.

“All these projections would entail reforms in policies and regulations that have rendered the transport and logistics systems inefficient and costly. For example, the Cabotage Law and high import tariffs on steel products along with the attached industries,” Dacanay said.

Long-term plan

He said that Neda is in the process of preparing a long-term plan for a railway system that is closely coordinated with other infrastructure plans.

Neda also underlined the prioritization of the upgrading and expansion and modernization of existing airports.

Dacanay said that by December 2014, the Laguindingan Airport will start serving night flights.

On mining, Neda said that Mindanao still has untapped reserves of mineral resources, which when utilized will further boost the island’s already growing mining industry.

“Such development eminently would require significant maritime transport support,” said Dacanay.

Talking of maritime transportation, Dacanay said that there is a need to revisit domestic cargo shipping rates.

The need to lower the rates is necessary to make it more competitive with the international averages.

“If this will materialize, it is expected that more agri-industries will relocate in Mindanao, especially whose raw materials are primarily sourced from the island, thus the need for more maritime transport support,” Dacanay said.