Postcards from the future: Mindanao

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SINCE I was young, Mindanao has been known as the “Land of Promise.” Today and in the future, Mindanao has very high development potentials. Its long coastlines and mountains are filled with unique flora and fauna. It is also the home of tribes such as the Manobos and Bagobos in Davao, among many others. Mindanao is set to become one of the cultural centers of the world, especially in South East Asia. With the onset of the technological revolution of the Millennia and the widespread development of the Internet, more citizens are able to see the vivid beauty of the Mindanao Islands.

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Mindanao is almost three times the size of Taiwan, 88 times bigger than Hong Kong, and 136 times larger than Singapore! We need to realize that there is more to our country beyond Metro Manila and start considering what other regions have to offer.

The future of Mindanao
In my meeting with the leaders and businessmen of Tawi-Tawi, some of them expressed how far they felt from Metro Manila and the rest of the country. The name Tawi-Tawi itself is derived from the Malay word “jaui,” meaning far. This makes the literal translation of Tawi-Tawi as “very far.” In order to give them a fresh perspective, I took out a map and showed them how close Tawi-Tawi is to our Asean neighbors. As a matter of fact, I told them that Tawi-Tawi and the rest of Mindanao is at the heart of the Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, and Malaysia– East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

The Muslim provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have great potential being in the center of trade for East Asia. It would need more infrastructure developments, especially in education, health and road infrastructure. Improvement in societal stability should also be addressed to attract more investors. By 2021, I imagine bridges and highways will be constructed to connect the five Muslim provinces with each other and to the rest of Mindanao. There are so much hope for these provinces, and so much culture to share with the rest of the Philippines and to the world.

Currently, many cities in Mindanao are experiencing rapid urbanization and infrastructure development. Cities such as Cagayan de Oro, Davao City, and General Santos are at the forefront of urban growth. It is observable that these cities have drastically improved their education, health, and tourism industries.

In Northern Mindanao or Region 10, the provinces of Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Bukidnon, and Misamis Occidental contribute around 7.2 % to the national gross domestic product. The most known city in the region is “the city of golden friendship” or Cagayan de Oro, for white water rafting, zip lines and highly urbanized area. With the completion of the highway connector throughout the provinces and to Laguindingan Airport, economic opportunities are expected to emerge throughout the region. Domestic and foreign tourist arrivals are also expected to rise because of the region’s stability and peace.

The Davao Region or Region 11, also known as Southern Mindanao, is well-known for peace and stability. Through strong leadership and good governance, Davao City has implemented laws to address criminality, heavy traffic, and smoking, among others. The discipline and strict implementation of the law has helped Davao City become the fourth safest city in the world.

It is observable that Davao region, especially Davao City, is highly urbanized. With the expected completion of Davao International Airport, it can expect a drastic increase in domestic and foreign arrivals as well. Davao offers a lot more than her famous durian and banana plantations. One cannot miss going to the Samal Islands, and visiting the indigenous communities such as the Monobos and Bagobos. Moreover, Mount Hamiguitan in Davao Oriental was named as a UNESCO world heritage site. It can be expected that the current 9.4 % gross domestic output will steadily increase, as foreign direct investments and new economic opportunities would soon emerge.

In central Mindanao, and in the Zamboanga Peninsula, there are a lot of potentials for developments, especially in Zamboanga City, General Santos, and South Cotobato. There are plans for central Mindanao to become an Aerotropolis or an airport-driven city. Zamboanga City, the “city of flowers,” is seen as the gateway to Southern Philippines and is being planned for urban revitalization. Culture, in fact, is at the heart of its development. Zamboanga is proud to embrace her Spanish Heritage, as she has adopted the known Chavacano, which is a mixture of local dialect and Spanish language. By 2021, I imagine the city embracing compact-mixed use developments to preserve its ecological resources and heritage areas.

I believe that Mindanao will continue to flourish, should there be visionary leadership, strong political will, good planning, good design, and good governance. It can contribute significantly to the Philippines becoming one of the top 20 economies by 2021.

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3 Comments

  1. John Arman Serenuela on

    I agree with you Alfredo, I myself being a native of Gensan have seen its growth to trend with other fast-developing cities in Mindanao such as CDO and Davao. Undoubtedly Gensan will always be the capital city of the south with its seaport and airport facilities. Not to mention the existing infrastructure of logistics, IT, etc. It will just need the right leadership to propel the city in greater height in terms of holistic industrial and communal development. But Mindanao is Mindanao regardless where you are and the long years of being branded as a “muslim area” will continuously take its toll. Plus theres the BBL which could add another flavor. I just hope for two things, first is that people and businesses will have a new impression on Mindanao. And second, that the LGUs can truly secure the city where it matters. Let the investors have the confidence on security, peace and order. Davao should be the model for this in some respect.

  2. Dadiangas… About five years after martial law was declared, I had an opportunity to tour Mindanao along with some journalists from manila, to see what Marcos had done to the region. One of the towns where we overnighted was Dadiangas – a sleepy town just next to the sea. Three decades later, dadiangas, which was later renamed Gen Santos town, and then Gen. Santos City – has become a bustling city of business and industry, home to factories processing tuna. I never expected Dadiangas to become this developed, but thanks to investors and right infrastructure to meet investors need, it has become what it is today. The rest of Mindanao crying for development could also become Dadiangas, now GenSan. Investors have to look the Dadiangas way at other undeveloped areas – especially those with rich agricultural land. But business would not be encouraged to do so unless the law and order issues are resolved.

  3. About five years after martial law was declared, I had an opportunity to tour Mindanao along with some journalists from manila, to see what Marcos had done to the region. One of the towns where we overnighted was Dadiangas – a sleepy town just next to the sea. Three decades later, dadiangas, which was later renamed Gen Santos town, and then Gen. Santos City – has become a bustling city of business and industry, home to factories processing tuna. I never expected Dadiangas to become this developed, but thanks to investors and right infrastructure to meet investors need, it has become what it is today. The rest of Mindanao crying for development could also become Dadiangas, now GenSan. Investors have to look the Dadiangas way at other undeveloped areas – especially those with rich agricultural land. But business would not be encouraged to do so unless the law and order issues are resolved.