Up and coming city of the south offers business and leisure opportunities
DAVAO City, the Philippine’s third-most populous city (after Quezon City and Manila) and at 2,443 square kilometers its largest by land area, owes its reputation as a city on the move to much more than its being the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte. Increasingly seen as a viable, and for some, a superior alternative to crowded Metro Manila and Cebu, Davao’s attractiveness is reflected in its well-planned developments in infrastructure and transportation, agribusiness, and tourism.
Located in southern Mindanao, Davao offers a skilled, youthful workforce with one of the highest literacy rates in the country (about 98.7 percent), a fairly consistent year-round climate outside the Philippine’s “typhoon belt,” and good logistics connections with the interior of Mindanao, the rest of the Philippines, and the East and Southeast Asian region.
Davao’s good track record of sound planning was cultivated during now-President Duterte’s long tenure — a total of 27 years — as Davao City Mayor, a position now held by his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio. It was the remarkable development of Davao under the popular and sometimes controversial mayor that catapulted him to national prominence and eventually the presidency, and not surprisingly, the city has benefited by having its former leader at the head of the national government.
Infrastructure and transportation innovation
Unlike Metro Manila, which continues to struggle with near-gridlock conditions and a lack of a cohesive infrastructure and transportation master plan, development in Davao has followed a clear roadmap divided into short-term (until 2022), medium-term (2023 to 2030), and long-term (2031 to 2045) initiatives.
Large-scale infrastructure initiatives designed to ease movement in and around Davao City as well as expand its logistical capabilities include recent upgrades to the facilities and road linkages of the Francisco Bangoy International Airport; significant expansion and upgrades of the various facilities of the Port of Davao, particularly at the Sasa International Seaport operated by International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI); development of a 23-kilometer Davao City Coastal Bypass Road; and implementation of a comprehensive Land Use Plan that includes, among other things, refinements in planning processes to integrate construction, upgrade, or relocation work on utility networks (electric and communications cabling and water supply) with road construction projects.
In terms of transportation networks and management, the city implemented a Comprehensive Transport and Management Plan with technical assistance from the Australian government in 2018. This plan provides for, among other things, development of a High Priority Bus System and light rail transit system for improved public transportation in the city; development of three provincial bus terminals to streamline overland connections with other points in Mindanao; and an aggressive program of traffic enforcement, including increasing the staff of the City Traffic and Transport Management Office (CTTMO).
Long serving as a market and logistical hub for agriculture in southern and eastern Mindanao, the city of Davao has applied a great deal of planning and development effort to expanding its agribusiness sector, an effort which is closely integrated with both overall economic planning and poverty reduction initiatives.
The centerpiece of the agribusiness strategy is development of the proposed P230-million Food Terminal Complex, to be located on property owned by the National Development Corporation (NDC) near the Davao Fishport Complex at Daliao, Toril.
The objective of the initiative is to establish a full-service facility to serve as a consolidation, processing, packaging, storage, and distribution center for farm products from within Davao City — due to its large land area, the city does have a sizable number of farms located within its jurisdiction — and coming into the city from elsewhere in Mindanao.
The project as proposed will have seven components, for which the city is currently shopping for investors, including a trading center; cold storage facility; a food processing center; dry storage warehouse facility; cargo handling and transport; common-bonded warehouses for trading activities; and other commercial and industrial spaces within the complex.
At present, an initial sub-component of the larger Food Terminal Complex is already in operation, a P70-million wholesale vegetable processing facility. This project is a joint effort of the Davao City government and the Department of Agriculture, and is intended to facilitate the efficient movement of produce in and out of the city and around the region. The vegetable processing facility also supports city efforts to boost production and incomes among local farmers under the Vegetable Production Enhancement Program.
Davao’s broad vision for city development recognizes the attributes of the city and surrounding area as a tourism destination, and its multi-year strategy seeks to leverage these as a key economic driver. First, Davao’s tropical climate, tempered by its coastal location, makes it an ideal year-round destination, particularly since it lies well south of the Philippines’ typhoon belt and rarely experiences dangerous weather. Second, the city’s reputation as a safe environment, established by the tough law-and-order stance of former Mayor Duterte and maintained by his daughter and successor, is attractive to overseas visitors. With enhancements to the airport boosting its capacity to two million passengers annually, access from elsewhere in the Philippines and Asia has been improved. International destinations regularly served by the Davao airport include Hong Kong, Singapore, Manado, Indonesia, Doha, Qatar, and Quanzhou, China.
Davao is pursuing several large-scale tourism initiatives that will present a number of attractive investment opportunities in the next several years. The city government has floated the idea of establishing a theme park “in the tradition of Disney and Enchanted Kingdom,” which would provide a new tourist destination to the area and would be the first such facility in Mindanao. Davao is also proposing development of the Sta. Ana Waterfront, an initiative to create new shopping areas, hotels, conference centers, and other attractions, at an estimated cost of P12 billion.
The city government is also working on a project that would create a P600-million sports complex on a 20-hectare parcel of land from the University of the Philippines’ reservation. According to information provided on the city government’s official website, “The project aims to create an environment-friendly complex such as indoor / outdoor sports facilities, open space, sports academy (classrooms, auditorium, library, sports laboratory, sports medicine clinic) and quarters for athletes undergoing training and sports officials.”