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What the ‘next normal’ demands from us

#MINDANAO

By JOHN TRIA

John TriaJohn Tria

John Tria

The “next normal,” describes the urgency of migrating to new ways of doing business to deal with our new realities. This demands safely innovating and decongesting our cities and workplaces.

Innovating the fruit industry

With the recent Food and Agricultural Organization report showing the Philippines as the No. 2 banana and pineapple producer in the world, the challenge is expanding the opportunity it presents, especially in light of obvious disruptions posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost all of this export capacity is in Mindanao.

At the same time, the volatility of global supply chains means that there will always be disruptions and delays in the shipment of products to and from countries. The pandemic already taught us valuable lessons last February, when banana exporters suffered delays in shipments due to quarantines on ships imposed by various countries. Being perishable items, fresh fruit need to reach their buyers as soon as possible.

As suggested by many economic thinkers, our fruit exporters and producers need to process a part of their produce. This can drive expansion and make the product reach a wider and deeper market, avoiding disruptions that hurt fresh fruit exports.

Thus, research into new products out of bananas, pineapples and even emerging exports like avocados and durian will be necessary to add value and improve product quality further.

Let’s hope that the P1-billion innovation fund can be utilized for developing new products. Davao and other regions have pioneered an approach called the Regional Inclusive Innovation Center with the Department of Trade and Industry and local academic institutions to drive innovation projects that local industries such as fruit producers can utilize to help foster research and development.

To fund these initiatives further, new credit offerings of the Department of Agriculture can also be tapped. Moreover, with credit costs going down, banks are now offering better rates that can be used to fund this type of expansion.

Support for CREATE snowballs

With more than 30 business organizations expressing support for the CREATE bill, including the Cebu and Davao City chambers of commerce and industry and the various regions of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the call for new innovative tax measures and incentives to draw industry into the countryside is much stronger.

To boost these inherent advanes, lower corporate income taxes and tailored incentive packages in CREATE will help free up funds to expand and innovate.

The need to decongest our metropolitan areas and to promote social distancing and infection prevention in the workplace prompts us to innovate by looking into new locations where rents and the cost of living are lower, allowing larger, safer spaces, and less disruption.

Interest in relocating to Mindanao is up

As a result of adapting to next normals and to meet rising demand from clients, some business process outsourcing companies have been hiring additional employees in Davao and are looking to lease new facilities in the city and other areas like Cagayan de Oro.

The new township level developments in these cities currently under construction may see a new market for their projects — the IT BPM sector. This — and more work from home arrangements — demands better connectivity.

We hope that the various telecommunications companies can come together to bring stronger connectivity to these areas. After all, this is a demand will increase revenue and can create additional jobs, so there is no reason why it should not be met.

Stay safe.

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