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Wednesday, November 21, 2018, 11:38
Philippines' Davao City mayor touts investment potential
By Karl Wilson in Davao City, Philippines
Wednesday, November 21, 2018, 11:38 By Karl Wilson in Davao City, Philippines

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and his daughter Sara Duterte arrive for the opening of the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2018 in Boao, south China's Hainan province on April 10, 2018. (PHOTO / AFP)

Trying to pin down Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio for a one-on-one interview is next to impossible these days.

Having formed her own political party, the daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is constantly on the move, attending rallies ahead of next year's Philippine midterm elections in May.

Duterte-Carpio was elected mayor of this thriving city on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao in 2016, when her father was elected president

From Nov 12 to 14, she made an official visit to Jinjiang in Fujian province, where she witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Ateneo de Davao University and Huaqiao University.

It is expected the document will help facilitate the establishment of a Confucius Institute at Ateneo de Davao.

Duterte-Carpio was elected mayor of this thriving city on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao in 2016, when her father was elected president.

Asked which projects Davao City is hoping China will invest in, she said in a written interview with China Daily, "We are open to all investors, regardless of race and location.

"In this regard, Davao City is encouraging foreign investors to look at the city's Ten Priority Investment Areas as possible areas of investment.

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"The preferred investment areas are agribusiness, tourism, light manufacturing, property development, health and wellness education and sports facilities, green projects, information and communications technology, generation of new sources of energy, transportation and infrastructure and public-private partnership projects."

Duterte-Carpio said her city "is now thrust into (the) national and international limelight because the country's current president is from Davao City".

"The city has a lot to offer to foreign investors, such as having the most competitive cost of doing business in the country compared with other highly urbanized cities in the Philippines.

"The fact that it is consistently being awarded as (one of) the Top Five Most Competitive Cities in the Philippines, awarded by the Department of Trade and Industry, is a strong testament to this.

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"Davao City also has stable peace and order, infrastructure and connectivity with a modern airport and seaport that are subject to upgrading and modernization in the coming months."

She said there are now daily flights to international and local destinations.

On Dec 18, Xiamen Airlines will launch a direct service between Davao City and Jinjiang. The plan is for three flights a week, to be increased depending on demand.

Cathay Pacific's regional airline Cathay Dragon launched a four-times-weekly service from Hong Kong to Davao City on Oct 28.

It is hoped these new services will increase investment, generate more tourism and provide impetus to the local economy.

During his recent visit to open China's third consulate in the Philippines, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Davao City a "new friend and partner" and one of the Philippine cities with the closest interactions with China.

Duterte-Carpio said another reason the city should be attractive to foreign and local investors is that it is considered the gateway to the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asian Growth Areas with a market of over 50 million people.

One area Chinese investors are looking into is the redevelopment of the city's Sasa International Seaport. Duterte-Carpio said the port is long overdue for "upgrading and modernization".

According to a report from the Philippine Ports Authority, several bidders have already signaled their interest, but no details have been released as yet.

Duterte-Carpio said she hopes redevelopment of the decades-old 8-hectare port will start next year.

A number of Chinese companies are said to be interested. The port is considered a perfect fit for China's Belt and Road Initiative as it provides a natural gateway to the Pacific.

According to the local Department of Transportation, China will be the Philippines' partner in the construction of the first railway system in Mindanao.

The first phase of the Mindanao Railway System will cover a distance of 102 kilometers and connect three cities - Tagum, Davao and Digos.

The Chinese government also has signified its interest in bidding for the planned expressway in Mindanao, but as yet there are no details.

Duterte-Carpio said Davao City has signed a sister city agreement with Nanning, capital of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, and will also sign one with Jinjiang.

"Engaging local and international cities through a sister city agreement has been found to be effective in learning the different cultures of each of the cities and best practices," she said.

A letter of intent for the partnership was signed on Feb 5 by Duterte-Carpio and Jinjiang Deputy Mayor Li Zili.

"Davao is an important city for the Chinese people. Most people from Jinjiang establish a business here in Davao," Li said during his visit in February.

The agreement aims to promote cooperation between the two cities in science and technology, culture, education, public health and sports.

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