By Minerva BC Newman
TAGBILARAN CITY – Bohol Gov. Arthur Yap believes that under the “new normal,” the province must now focus to relive and reopen economic zones, food security, and tourism to advance diversity in its economic activities amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
“Right now, what we can focus is not only on how to reopen tourism but also food production as the ‘needed base’ for Bohol to venture into manufacturing activities. We saw what happened when we concentrated on tourism alone and didn’t put enough concentration on food and agriculture,” Yap said.
Yap added that his administration is willing to invest in building economic zones to diversify the economic agenda in Bohol. He shared this concept in a videoconference with National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) regional director Efren Carreon on Monday.
“If we cannot diversify into some forms of manufacturing, then the local economy is always exposed, and it will always be in a very precarious situation. It can be hit by one event and it can practically wipe us out,” he said.
Yap is now focusing on what Bohol can do to position itself and “harvest” some companies and economic activities coming out of China. He discussed this initially with the Department of Trade and Industry ((DTI) Assistant Secretary Asteria Caberte.
He said there are many companies moving out of China and eyeing to relocate to other parts of Southeast Asia. “Unfortunately, we are losing to Vietnam. Vietnam is, by far, pulling all the investments. We are coming in second. Third is Indonesia. Fourth is Thailand. But we are coming at a very poor second,” the governor said.
Indonesia and Thailand, Yap said, had been getting a lot of the investments before COVID-19. In the last five years, the Philippines lost to Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia in attracting investments, he added.
The DTI said a number of investors have been enticed to come to the Philippines, and in Cebu alone, there are locators wanting to get out because of congestion.
“I feel that’s going to open up opportunities for northern Bohol,” Yap said, citing Tubigon, Buenavista, Getafe, and Talibon as good potential areas for investments along the northwestern corridor.
These areas are just across Cebu which is only 27 kilometers from the nearest Bohol point that is Getafe. Loon and its islands of Cabilao and Sandingan are closer to the Catagbacan port.
Yap is optimistic that all these real estate fronting Cebu are open and the province will invest funds and other resources in building an economic zone that provides, at least, economic diversity to spur jobs and livelihood among Boholanos.