By Carmelito Q. Francisco

DAVAO CITY — Rehabilitation of Marawi City and the two government-owned hydropower complexes are among the concerns that are expected to be discussed during the three-day Mindanao Business Conference (MinBizCon) in Iligan City starting Sept. 12.

Based on the six-point policy agenda prepared by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation of Iligan, organizer and host of this year’s MinBizCon, Mindanao’s business leaders will ask the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and “other relevant government agencies, especially those who are members of the business and livelihood sub-cluster,” to “accelerate efforts to assist the Marawi business community through external marketing and promotion of local products and services.”

A soft copy of the agenda also said the DTI must conduct orientation workshops on the supplier development program for Marawi “soonest to explore potential opportunities with the business sector.”

DTI and financial institutions are also urged to “design and support and expanded and Marawi-specific financing packages with risk-mitigation features for the entrepreneurial business community in Marawi.”

For the Department of Information and Communications Technology, the appeal is for “private telecommunications companies to immediately establish the necessary infrastructure to improve telecommunication connections” and explore the possibility of granting fiscal incentives for this.

Marawi has been undergoing rehabilitation following the 2017 armed conflict between government forces and members of local extremist groups who sieged the city.

The policy agenda also focuses on the rehabilitation of the Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric power complexes, noting that these assets have “far ranging ramifications on the business climate and competitiveness dynamism of Mindanao.” It urges the Finance and Energy departments, in coordination with the National Power Corp., to prioritize the project and include it in the 2020 National Energy Program.

It noted that options other than full privatization should be considered, including “hybrid privatization” where operation and maintenance can be entrusted to the private sector while ownership of the facility remains with government.

“The other option is to exclude (from privatization) the Agus and Pulangi.”

Republic Act No. 9136, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001, mandates the privatization of all government-owned power assets.

The four other main issues that will be put forward during MinBizCon are:

• upgrading of airports in the cities of Pagadian, Ozamiz, Surigao and neighboring Siargao, and Camiguin; and modernization of the Laguindingan Airport in Northern Mindanao;

• comprehensive implementation of the Roads Leveraging Linkages for Industry and Trade, which was started in 2018 and forms part of the five-year program of the Department of Public Works and Highways;

• updates on the Finance department’s proposal to cut the corporate income tax rate to 20% by 2029 from 30% currently and to overhaul investment incentives by making them more time-bound and tied to economic benefits they bring and by removing those deemed redundant; and

• institutionalization of a whole-of-nation approach to counterinsurgency through improved social and economic development programs led by local governments.