Digitalization, EAGA trade named Davao business chamber’s top priorities

DAVAO CITY’S business leaders are looking to regain the growth momentum lost last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with digitalization and stronger trade ties in the sub-regional grouping known as the East ASEAN Growth Area (EAGA) among the priorities.

“The economies of Davao and Mindanao need to recover the lost ground and momentum they had before the pandemic,” said Maria Lourdes G. Monteverde on Friday after formally taking the helm as this year’s president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Davao Region’s economic output had been increasing steadily between 2017 and 2019, with gross regional domestic product recorded at P900.4 billion in 2019 driven mainly by the wholesale and retail trade, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. Regional output in the two previous years amounted to P785.1 billion and P841.4 billion, respectively.

Ms. Monteverde said the adoption of digital technology is particularly important for the survival of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

“The chamber aims to provide an environment conducive to capacity building, innovation and digitalization that will help the MSMEs adopt and thrive in the new normal,” she said, noting that the chamber will be building upon the groundwork laid out last year.

The chamber hosted various trade-related and knowledge-sharing activities online last year, including the annual Mindanao Business Conference, which was held virtually for the first time.

The group also assisted the Indonesian Consulate in Davao in launching an online program intended to strengthen and sustain ties among businesses within EAGA, composed of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

“The chamber is looking forward to the resumption of trade cooperation. The chamber hopes to reactivate the momentum of sub-regional trade in the BIMP-EAGA through increased linkages between the business sectors within the sub-region,” Ms. Monteverde said.

She added that the chamber will strengthen relations with foreign chambers from the European Union, Japan, and China.

Chinese Consul General Li Lin, in a separate interview, said China’s diplomatic representation in Davao will soon include an official focused on economic ties who will develop more business and trade opportunities with Davao and Mindanao.

One of China’s main programs is encouraging Chinese companies such as Huawei Technologies and the Alibaba Group to work more closely with local government units.

“Alibaba in e-commerce, Huawei in 5G and big data. Both companies are important for smart city design-and-build providers,” he said.

He added that these companies can deliver tailor-made solutions for the modernization of agriculture, one of Mindanao’s main growth drivers.

Ms. Monteverde, a doctor, also said that while the government and the private sector are preparing for the vaccination program, businesses should carry on with their recovery plans while waiting for the actual rollout.

“We go full throttle, full speed to achieve our vision of this 2021… with or without the vaccination,” she said. — Marifi S. Jara and Maya M. Padillo

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