At the turn of the millennium, the Southern Tagalog region was the country’s biggest in terms of land area and population. Designated as Region IV by the national government for administrative purposes, it consisted of six provinces in the southern part of Luzon and five island provinces adjacent to the Visayas.
In 2002, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued an executive order partitioning Southern Tagalog into Calabarzon or Region IV-A and Mimaropa or Region IV-B. Calabarzon is composed of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon, while Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan comprised Mimaropa or Region IV-B. The province of Aurora was transferred to Central Luzon or Region III.
Among the 17 existing regions of the Philippines, Mimaropa was the second fastest-growing in 2018 with a gross regional domestic product (GRDP) growth rate of 8.6%, next only to Bicol’s GRDP which grew by 8.9% last year. Both regions outpaced the National Capital Region’s 2018 growth rate at only 4.8%.
The economic expansion of Mimaropa was largely due to the performance of its industrial and services sectors that registered growth rates of 11.2% and 9.3%, respectively. The agricultural sector, which includes forestry and fishing, also grew but at a slower rate of 2.6%. Construction was the top contributor to industrial growth, followed by mining and quarrying, manufacturing, electricity, gas, and water supply.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, Mimaropa’s regional economy accelerated last year at its fastest rate since 2010. National Economic and Development Authority regional director Susan Sumbeling said: “The region will continue to encourage more private sector investments and build the proper infrastructure for the efficient delivery of products and services to its island communities.”
Ms. Sumbeling emphasized that economic growth must be inclusive and poverty eradication should be at the core of development efforts. To achieve greater impact, she believes there is a need to build an enabling environment for shared action among local government employees and stakeholders.
During the recent “Mimaropa Naturally Agri-Trade and Tourism Fair” at SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City, some 280 micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) exhibited their tourism destinations and local products in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Agriculture, Department of Tourism, Department of Agrarian Reform, and various local government units.
Highlighting the trade fair was the One Town, One Product (OTOP) NextGen special setting that featured MSME products benefiting from the OTOP program through improvement and innovation in the areas of quality, product development, design, packaging, standards compliance, marketability, production capability, and brand development.
DTI Region IV-B regional director Joel Valera expects the trade fair’s 2019 edition to have generated approximately P80 million in sales compared to P70 million last year and only P4.7 million when “Mimaropa Naturally” was started by DTI in 2015. This would help jumpstart the MSMEs’ vision of penetrating mainstream domestic and export markets that would result in job generation.
Mr. Valera disclosed that the high sales expectation was attributed to the competitive and high-quality products of Mimaropa’s MSMEs, whose enthusiasm became even more pronounced when DTI set the bar higher by providing them business technical assistance.
He observed that buyers are beginning to patronize local goods made by MSMEs because of the intensified efforts for marketing and product development. “By conducting trade fairs, MSMEs would be able to reach clients from Metro Manila. This will really test the potential of the products made by MSMEs,” Mr. Valera noted.
Exhibitors that stood out at the trade fair were Marinduque Land Corp.’s virgin coconut oil and sweet crystal oil products, as well as Dream Favor Travel and Tours which organizes agri-farm tours and culinary adventures in the region.
With such attractions as Palawan’s serene tropical islands, Occidental Mindoro’s marine biodiversity at Apo Reef, Romblon’s unexplored beaches, Marinduque’s historic Moriones Festival, and Oriental Mindoro’s Puerto Galera sunset parties — indeed the future looks bright for Mimaropa.
J. Albert Gamboa is CFO of the Asian Center for Legal Excellence and Chairman of the FINEX Golden Jubilee Book Project.