… focused on agriculture, energy, mining sectors

ORGANIZERS of the 19th Mindanao Business Conference this month hope the event will attract P1 billion in investments in the energy, agriculture and mining sectors.

“We hope to [generate] more than P1 billion in investments in three priority sectors — energy, agriculture and mining — as a result of the upcoming business conference,” Jaime Rafael U. Paguio, president of Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc., said in a press conference in Manila yesterday for the event, which will be held in Cagayan de Oro on Sept. 17-18.

Mr. Paguio said Mindanao’s bout with a crippling power shortage amid the dry spell in the first half highlighted the urgency of increasing generation capacity. Even with the onset of rains in late-June that filled up dams that power hydroelectric plants — which provide half of Mindanao’s requirement — the entire island continues to have thin reserves, amounting to just 31 megawatts yesterday, according to the Web site of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

“We’re trying to bring in more investments for energy generation because Mindanao experienced shortage in power supply in the first semester of the year which greatly affected businesses,” Mr. Paguio said.

He said a power shortage is costly, not only due to lost man-hours and disrupted, delayed production — which, in turn, means lost customers — but also because businesses have to pass on the cost of remedial measures. “If we’re talking about generators that some businesses have acquired or will be acquiring, then they would have to recover the cost in the price of their products,” Mr. Paguio said.

Mindanao’s energy security, he added, lies not only in ensuring sufficient capacity, but also in having “a mix of energy sources — hydro, coal, geothermal, solar, etc.”

The conference will also seek investments in agriculture, in order to help push the plan of making Mindanao the country’s food production hub. This thrust, he said, requires “more diversity of crops and establishment of additional mariculture parks.”

Ruben A. Vegafria, conference director, said this thrust also involves building up the island’s processing sector, which will add value to farm products.

Mr. Paguio also cited the need for “additional processing for…mining products” to increase value.

Miguel B. Varela, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in the same briefing that the conference will draw up resolutions that will recommend to President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III how best to improve the business environment of Mindanao. — KAM

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