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Mindanao needs to gear up for integrated ASEAN market in 2015

Mindanao provinces, which are closer to the sub-southeast Asia regional BIMP-EAGA, should be in a position to take advantage of a fully integrated ASEAN economy by 2015.

This was raised by two of the country’s top economists Bernie Villegas and Cayetano W. Paderanga Jr. at the “Connect and Do Business in Cagayan de Oro” forum organized by the USAID in Makati yesterday.

For his part, Villegas said that in the case of Cagayan de Oro or the Northern Mindanao region it should take advantage of agribusiness opportunities for ASEAN especially on palm oil production.

According to Villegas, Cagayan de Oro should take advantage of the BIMP –EAGA (Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area) which he said could be expanded to include Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

“These countries can learn from each other and from other ASEAN countries,” he said noting that Northern Mindanao has learned palm oil production from Malaysia and Indonesia.  At present, there have been palm oil plantations in Bukidnon.

Villegas noted that the Thais have learned rice production from the Philippines and are now exporting rice to the country. Vietnam has also become the world’s biggest producer of coffee after it diversified to coffee and cacao production five years ago.

For his part, Paderanga stressed that the “ASEAN Economic Community 2015 is real” and the regions in the Philippines should think what are the opportunities that they can benefit from this economic integration.

Paderanga stressed that Northern Mindanao is the fastest growing region in the country. From its GDP growth of 5.8 percent in 2011, Region 10’s GDP went up to 7.4 percent in 2012. Northern Mindanao was growing even faster than the Davao Region or Region 11, which only posted 3.7 percent GDP in 2011 although it managed to match the 7.4 percent growth of Region 10 in 2012.

“With Bangsa Moro formally organized, there would be stronger growth in Northern Mindanao,” Paderanga said.

He, however, said that despite the tremendous economic potentials of the region, peace and order, good infrastructure and utilities, Region 10’s economy still remains a largely agricultural, fishery and forestry dependent.

Paderanga said that industries and services should expand further in this region along with the expansion of the GDP growth in industries at 9.2 percent and 9 percent for services in the third quarter of 2013.

Services should also grow in Northern Mindanao given the tremendous tourism potential in the area. Cagayan de Oro is also hosts to huge educational institutions but its BPO industry has also remained under rated, Paderanga said.