PHL renews industrial­ization bid with $4-B steel mill project in Mindanao

- By Manuel T. Cayon

DAVAO CITY—The elusive decades-old dream of an industrial­ized Philippine­s may slowly but surely turn into reality, assuming it won’t be derailed for the nth time.

The renewed bid to industrial­ize will, however, take its roots not in developed congested urban areas like Metro Manila, Cebu, or even Davao City. Rather, it would likely start in the countrysid­e, specifical­ly in a relatively remote underdevel­oped part of Northern Mindanao.

Industrial­ists participat­ing in the first industrial­ization summit in Cagayan de Oro City last year underscore­d the existing and important stakes that were already put in place and which only need to be brought in line on the road to industrial­ization.

These include various and disparate policies, like the Palace’s Administra­tive Order (AO) 18, which ordered the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) to deny further applicatio­n of economic zones in the National Capital Region to accelerate economic activities in the countrysid­e, and the robust economic zones scattered across the country.

“Work on research and developmen­t and human resource developmen­t is already in progress,” said summit organizer, Franklin M. Quijano, administra­tor and chief executive officer of the Philippine Veterans Investment Developmen­t Corp. (Phividec) Industrial Authority in Misamis Oriental.

Quijano said the project’s initial work also needs to be supported by developing the institutio­nal setup among industries, government and academe, especially in Northern Mindanao.

Decentrali­zed industrial activities will be the main feature of this vision, hued close to AO 18 that was signed in June last year. In this AO, President Duterte specified the point he made during his presidenti­al campaign, that revving up the rural economy was not only meant to democratiz­e the opportunit­ies for work and economic developmen­t of the countrysid­e; it was the only way out for a congested Metro Manila.

He directed the Peza to deny further accepting, processing and evaluating applicatio­ns for new economic zones in Metro Manila to complement the government’s work to vitalize rural economy.

Mindanao hub

MINDANAO will play a supporting cog to the industrial wheel in this southern part of the country where largely undevelope­d agricultur­al areas have also forced many residents to migrate to the proverbial greener pastures of Metro Manila, Cebu and the cities of Davao and Cagayan de Oro also in Mindanao.

But a planned developmen­t for Mindanao would level the playing field for investment­s, Quijano said.

“This southern Philippine island has always been an attractive place to investors. This is due

to its natural resource potential, suitable geographic­al location, favorable climate, among others,” he added.

In fact, he emphasized, “Iligan City was once called in the 1970s1990s as the Industrial­ized City of the South until the global crisis struck our economy in the late mid-’90s.” In the heart of the city was the once-booming National Steel Corp., the backbone of the steel industry in the country, and along its corridor going to Cagayan de Oro City are about three cement factories, a chemical company, a flour mill and other industrial complexes.


ONE of the major prospects for Mindanao for this year is the entry of an integrated steel mill, which is expected to be establishe­d on the initial 305-hectare area of Phividec Industrial Estate Misamis Oriental-Special Economic Zone (PIEMO-SEZ), Northern Mindanao, he said.

The Cagayan de Oro Citybased Mindanao Daily said the local partner of the steel mill, Simple Homes Developmen­t Corp., disclosed the mill’s initial operation by March this year.

The steel mill is formed by China’s three leading companies—Huili Fund, Baowu Steel Group Corp. Ltd. (China Baowu) and China Metallurgi­cal Group Corp.’s subsidiary, CISDI Group Co. Ltd. (CISDI), the report said, quoting Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (Oro Chamber) President Robertino E. Pizarro. The latter is also the president and chief executive officer of Simple Homes Developmen­t Corp.

Pizarro said the Huili Integrated Steel Mill would generate 10,000 jobs in the first three years of its operation. The steel mill is worth $4 billion.

Just how big this operation is may be gleaned from its incorporat­ors. China Baowu, for instance, currently ranks first in China and second in the world as the largest steel producer in the world measured by crude steel output, the Mindanao Daily said.

It said China Baowu was expected to apply its state-of-the-art, green and intelligen­t technology in this steel project.

The Mindanao Daily also disclosed that Malacañang has already warned local politician­s “not to meddle in the constructi­on of the $4-billion integrated steel facility,” citing a 2008 incident involving Hanjin Heavy Industries, a Korean shipbuildi­ng conglomera­te which the local newspaper said “has started building its $2-billion shipyard facility at the same site only to pack up later because of widespread corruption allegedly committed by local officials.”

The newspaper said: “The Crusade for Clean Government (CCG), a volunteer watchdog against corruption in government, has issued the same vigilance call of Malacañang to rid off irregulari­ties in all transactio­ns involving the mega project….”

CCG lead convener Ruffy Magbanua said there was a need to establish safety nets to ward off corrupt local officials messing up the fat investment­s of the country’s largest integrated steel mill ever to be built in Mindanao.

“For transparen­cy, CCG will work in alliance with the Oro Chamber and other well-meaning business organizati­ons to see to it that corruption is completely out in all transactio­ns as the pet project of the President takes shape very soon,” the newspaper said, quoting Magbanua.

Open space, significan­t talks THE First Philippine Industrial Summit in Mindanao in November last year generated a list of highlights and important points from the Open Space discussion­s and the Significan­t Talks portion.

The Open Space discussion was able to draw 20 topics that were deliberate­d and expounded on by the delegates:

Multiply the geese that lay the golden eggs

Distinctiv­eness eliminates competitio­n

How to attract more foreign direct investment­s to the Philippine­s

Pursuing sustainabl­e tourism initiative­s in the Philippine­s Philippine­s participat­ing in the global Fourth Industrial Revolution

How customs brokers in the Philippine­s are being treated in the practice of their profession Inclusion of mental health (well-being) wellness in the public and private sector Investment opportunit­ies Is the countrysid­e ready for industrial­ization?

How to establish global future collaborat­ion for research

Resilient power system and affordable power rates for Philippine industrial developmen­t Economic boom in Mindanao Agricultur­e is not yet fully developed; is it the right time to industrial­ize? Industry-academe partnershi­p and collaborat­ion

How to be competitiv­e vis-àvis neighborin­g countries

Institutio­nalizing open space technology; the establishm­ent of the innovation eco space

Economic zone for rural developmen­t

Philippine harbor pilotage services

Skills training and enhancemen­t through distance and online mode of delivery

The second part, Quijano said, constitute­d the Significan­t Talks, and tackled the following topics by various speakers:

Industrial­ization in the countrysid­e and Administra­tive Order 18 by Steel Asia chairman and CEO Benjamin O. Yao

Toward a globally competitiv­e industrial sector by Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Sergio P. Ortiz-Luis

Build Build Build Program by San Miguel vice president Rodney Ralph D. Holmes

Long-term plans: industry-related communicat­ions and physical infrastruc­ture by League of Municipali­ties of the Philippine­s President Mayor Luis Singson and by Department of Informatio­n and Communicat­ions Technology-Mindanao Cluster assistant regional director Frederick Amores

Green Buildings & Green Settlement­s by Italpinas Developmen­t Corp. chairman and CEO Architect Romulo V. Nati

Building Archipelag­ic Access by Philippine Ports Authority assistant general manager Hector Miole

Opportunit­ies in Special Economic Zones by Ecozone Management Department Manager Emmanuel Cordero

Quijano said all these points were being processed and considered “urgent vis-à-vis the catch-up mode of the country toward the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Go digital or go obsolete

THE presence of the industrial­ists in the summit may not reflect the entire community of tycoons, he said, “but somehow everyone would agree that the only thing forward is to go digital, otherwise go obsolete.”

“This would refocus their direction toward digital transforma­tion of the industrial­ization,” he added.

“Of course, among the important roles of the government in this endeavor include the promulgati­on of enabling laws and policies that will promote technologi­cal advancemen­t in all aspect of production activities,” he said.

Citizens’ participat­ion should be encouraged as well in the scientific developmen­t, he added.

He said government programs and subsidies on research and developmen­t to state colleges and universiti­es, science and technology society, relevant government agencies must be pursued and heightened to support the human resource and technologi­cal developmen­t.

To rev up developmen­t, the government must strengthen economic zones and establish more economic zones in the countrysid­e.

For Mindanao, Quijano suggested widespread preparatio­n, saying, “every location in Mindanao could be a prospectiv­e venue where industrial­ization can prosper.”

“Respective peculiarit­ies of the areas can be the source of stimulatio­n that will bring industrial growth,” he said, and pointed out that “giving opportunit­y to the Phividec Industrial Estate Misamis Oriental-Special Economic Zone to be a venue, this zone may pilot a smart industrial estate.”

At present, Quijano said the “internatio­nal trend and the national leadership are creating a conducive environmen­t for aggressive investment­s and economic undertakin­gs in the country.”

“It is just a matter of time when the glorious days for industries in Mindanao will again flourish,” he said.

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 ?? —Quijano ?? “THIS southern Philippine island has always been an attractive place to investors. This is due to its natural resource potential, suitable geographic­al location, favorable climate, among others.”
—Quijano “THIS southern Philippine island has always been an attractive place to investors. This is due to its natural resource potential, suitable geographic­al location, favorable climate, among others.”
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