New breed of Fil-Chinese businessmen sail out of the capital

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By Marifi S. Jara, Mindanao Bureau Chief

YOUNG FILIPINO-Chinese entrepreneurs and professionals are exploring growing opportunities outside the Philippine capital, prodded by the administration’s infrastructure and inclusive development agenda, and their curiosity piqued by the recent rise of political and business leaders from Mindanao.

Signalling its venture out of Metro Manila, the 27-year-old Anvil Business Club, Inc., also referred to as the Association of Young Filipino-Chinese Entrepreneurs, held its officers’ induction in Davao City on June 30, the first time ever that it was held outside Malacañang.

“We’re here to look at tourism opportunities, trading opportunities, there’s a lot of construction that’s happening here, some networking for us… franchising,” Anvil Business Club President John Patrick S. Cua said in an interview with BusinessWorld on June 29 in Davao City.

Anvil Chairman Wilson Y. Lee Flores, in the same interview, said, “We are excited by the inspiring Davao success story we’ve been hearing about and the many economic opportunities of once-neglected Mindanao region… Apart from President (Rodrigo R.) Duterte’s correct vision to decentralize wealth and economic development… we also admire the strong leadership of Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and her no-nonsense attitude.”

Mr. Cua, who is managing director of Nielsen Philippines, said the out-of-the-capital direction is backed by economic indicators and various studies.

“I can quote a Nielsen study, ‘The Age of ASEAN Cities,’ the study says if you want to grow your business, or see the growth in consumption, it’s not going to happen in Metro Manila… the growth from now to 2025 is in the secondary and third-tier cities,” he said.

In succeeding years, he added, the group with 450 members intends to bring the same event to other cities in Mindanao as well as the Visayas.

Majority of the members, with ages ranging from 21-50, are from Metro Manila, but many do have roots in the different provinces where their Chinese ancestors landed as early as pre-colonial Philippines and started from scratch.

Mr. Cua himself was born and raised in Davao City before moving out for university and eventually a career in the corporate sector.

“I’m the first president of Anvil from Mindanao… I call Davao my hometown, I benefitted from the peace and order of our then mayor and now President Duterte,” he said.

Now with the administration’s aggressive infrastructure spending for the Build, Build, Build program, Mr. Flores said “this is a golden opportunity for us entrepreneurs to venture into provinces and grow with the expanding economy.”

The group’s three-day visit included trips to the Malagos Farm in an upland part of the city, and the Paradise Island Resort in neighboring Island Garden City of Samal. Some, in smaller parties, ventured to Tagum City in Davao del Norte, which will host this year’s Mindanao Business Conference.

“Something that’s quite underdeveloped is products for tourism… If we travel elsewhere, there are a lot of these places that offer an experience… those are some ideas to inspire our members,” Mr. Cua said.

Mr. Flores said the group also recently had “extensive dialogues with two tycoons with flourishing Mindanao businesses,” referring to Anvil honorary member Dennis A. Uy of the Udenna group of companies, and William Tiu Lim of Mega Fishing Corp. in Zamboanga City, producer of the Mega canned sardines brand.

“Metro Manila is so competitive, congested, but it’s like the comfort zone. It’s time to go outside,” Mr. Flores said.

At the same time, the Anvil chairman noted the need for improving business procedures alongside the rollout of infrastructure.

“Investors, big or small, hope to see better ease of doing business throughout Mindanao… I think Mindanao truly needs to modernize infrastructure with more and bigger airports, new trains, better seaports, efficient telecommunications… In some parts of Mindanao, there is a need to uphold better peace and order, such as Sulu and Maguindanao where government hopefully can resolve problems of insurgency,” Mr. Flores said.

Ms. Carpio, the presidential daughter who took over the helm of Davao, cited local government initiatives to attract more investments and welcomed the group’s enthusiasm, noting the role of the business sector in development.

“Progress in any community cannot be achieved solely by the efforts of the government, we recognize the role of the private sector as an essential factor in the advancement of any society,” she said during the induction ceremony where she was guest of honor.

“I hope you find promise in Davao today, just as your forebears before you did,” said the mayor of Davao, which has the biggest Chinatown in the country with four archways marking a 44-hectare area in the central district.

While a good number of their members are already conducting business with various industries in Mindanao, Mr. Cua said: “We are encouraging (them) to go outside Metro Manila and look for growth outside.”