Think Cebu

Magellans' Cross.
Image via Wikipedia

Cebu in central Philippines has several things going for it to get ahead as a top investment and tourism destination in Southeast Asia. Consider the following:

1. Strategic location

A progressive economy and tourism melting pot located at the center of the Philippine archipelago, Cebu is a strategic gateway to other progressive communities and tourism destinations like Davao, Palawan, Panglao, and Boracay.

Moreover, it is geographically at the center of Southeast Asia. It served before as a gateway for Western economic powers to engage Southeast Asia.

2. Played a crucial role in world history

Every high school and college student here and abroad who took up world history as a subject know that all the while, man thought the world was flat. It took the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan to prove that the world is round.

In the process, he found Cebu, Christianized the locals, and died at the hands of a local chieftain Lapu-Lapu in 1521.

Note that in 10 years, Cebu will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of Magellan’s arrival and the start of the Christianization of the Philippines.

3. Natural and modern attractions

Cebu is widely known for its beaches. It has world class resorts like Shangrila and Plantation Bay in Mactan Island, just a few minutes ride from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport. Or one can hop and explore  other destinations like Malapascua and Bantayan Island also in Cebu, Dakak resort in Mindanao, the underground river in Palawan, or popular Boracay.

Visitors, however, should not miss something only Cebu offers. A zip line from the metro’s tallest building to a neighboring building.

4. Work and play atmosphere for investors

When the London-based financial office of Bombardier transferred to Cebu in 2009, their top officials said they chose the location after an exhaustive search. They needed a place that could meet their huge ICT requirements, affordable cost of living, but with a leisurely atmosphere.

In Cebu, the workplaces are near malls. One enjoys a lively big city nightlife. And you are just minutes away from beach resorts.

5. Vibrant and growing economy.

I don’t want to go into statistics and numbers to show a vibrant and growing economy. For this article, it should be sufficient to point out two on-going projects designed to create more room for development — the Ciudad project in uptown Cebu City supported by the Cebu provincial government and the ambitious 300-hectare South Reclamation Project of the Cebu City government.

Because of its strategic location at the center of the Philippine archipelago, investors are considering Cebu which, as pointed out above, is the gateway to the rest of central and southern Philippines.

Traditionally a trading center even before Magellan arrived in 1521, Cebu has a large community of entrepreneurs many of whom rose to become prominent industry leaders (e.g. the Aboitizes) and even Filipino tycoons.

A major education center in central Philippines, Cebu offers an educated and proud labor force that is being absorbed by a growing number of call centers.

Political obstacles

We can go on enumerating the virtues of Cebu. Unfortunately, local political realities has proven to be a major obstacle to Cebu’s development into a global economic and tourism powerhouse like Singapore or Hong Kong.

For example. Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia has  been questioning moves to develop the SRP. Congressman Tomas Osmena and his allies, on the other hand, are doing everything to block Ciudad, a project supported by the governor. Lapu-Lapu City Mayor Paz Radaza, meanwhile, is pursuing activities independent of other Cebu leaders. Lapu-Lapu City, long behind the shadows of Cebu City but a city where some 60 percent of tourists congregate, intends to carve an independent tourism niche.

But for a change, why can’t we think of Cebu minus the parochial political agenda of political leaders who consider turf high up in their development agenda?

I know this could just be mere wishful thinking considering our long history of local political bickering. Magellan, for example, was a victim of the conflict for supremacy between Zebu’s Rajah Humabon and Mactan’s Datu Lapu-Lapu in 1521. The American period saw the decades of political conflict between Don Sergio Osmena and Don Vicente Sotto. During the post-war period, Don Sergio’s son Serging had a running war to maintain political leadership against Nong Ramon Durano.

Today, Serging’s son Rep. Tomas Osmena is waging a drawn-out political war with Gov. Gwen Garcia. Their political conflict would have been acceptable if they could sit down to plot out and cooperate in long-term programs and pet development projects of each camp are not considered fair game.

What if Cebuanos and their leaders would consider the welfare of Cebu first? What if we think first of Cebu?

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