FOR a Manila-based business leader, the initiatives Cebu’s business community has introduced will ensure the province is ready for the Asean Economic Community.

Samie Lim, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Franchise Association and tourism chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Cebu has much to be thankful for from its private sector.

“Cebu is the most prepared for the Asean integration,” Lim told reporters in a recent visit to Cebu.

He particularly cited the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, saying he is confident the organization will “never run out” of qualified leaders to serve as president. “They are able to produce one every year unlike some, who have a president who has been there a long time,” he said.

Lim said the chamber’s efforts in celebrating Cebu Business Month (CBM) is laudable, as he recalled its humble beginnings when it started out as a day-long observance. He said the CCCI can showcase the CBM as a model for other business chambers to follow.

What he hopes for, however, is more participation for its month-long sale. He said that for Cebu in the Bag to be really successful, it needs the cooperation of all retailers and all the establishments, not just some.

He also said that the government needs to realize that the top earner in tourism is in the shopping, not in the food or accommodations. He said tourism decision makers in Thailand and Malaysia realized this and promote the shopping experience in their countries.

Sabino Dapat, tourism chair of the CBM, believes in Cebu’s readiness for the economic integration.

“Cebu is not afraid. Cebu and the Cebuanos are a very resilient lot,” Dapat said at an awarding of investors last week. He said that despite difficulties, Cebuanos try to make the most out of any situation, which is why he is confident it can do well in an integrated economy.

He also believes it is Cebu’s strength that has led national government agencies to neglect it.

He said Cebu needs a highway that will seamlessly connect the north with the south to effectively move business towards the countryside. He said dispersing the wealth and improving tourism facilities in the rural areas will be quicker if the access to these areas is better.