GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/06 August) — The city government is pushing for the crafting of a comprehensive plan that would direct the area’s development initiatives in the wake of the changing global socio-economic climate.
City Mayor Ronnel Rivera said the local government has initially tapped the services of top economic and development experts for the formulation of the city’s comprehensive development plan.
He said the plan, which will be centered on the area’s land-use strategy, will serve as the road map for development expansions within the city’s 26 barangays in the next decade.
“I opened talks with the University of Asia and Pacific to help gather data, statistics and information preparatory to the drafting of a comprehensive city development plan,” he said during his first state-of-the-city address on Tuesday.
The mayor said the plan will mainly take off from the city’s current status as the hub of economic activities in Region 12, especially in terms of communication, transportation, banking and finance, manufacturing, services, among others.
Also known as Soccsksargen, the region comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.
“We will reinforce this status by formulating our own development road map as the economic and cultural center, as well as the tourism gateway of the region,” he said.
In line with the initiative, Rivera said the local government must take the lead in defining the city’s development agenda “by laying down the foundation and defining where investments and business opportunities are most welcome.”
The mayor asked the city council to work on the passage of a new comprehensive land-use plan for the city.
He said the local government, through the council and other stakeholders, also needs to redefine the city zoning ordinance, amend the real property tax schedule and review the local investment code.
Rivera said the new development plan will help the city prepare better for the integration by next year of the economies of the 10 member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“How it will affect the local economy and our tuna canning and processing sector is our lookout given that Thailand is a major competitor and is even a bigger canned tuna processor than us,” he said.
He said the city government wants to anticipate the effects and the opportunities the ASEAN economic integration will present to the area’s small and medium enterprises.
Rivera said the development plan will enable the city to be more competitive and eventually catch up with bigger economies in the country.
“We are at least 20 years behind our neighbor Davao City and at least 25 years behind most urban centers in the Visayas and Luzon,” he said.
Dubbed the country’s “tuna capital,” the city currently hosts six of the countries tuna canneries and various complementary industries.
The area’s economy has continued to grow at a faster rate in the past several years mainly due to the boom in the property, construction and services sectors.
In the last two years, the city absorbed billions of pesos worth of investments with the opening and expansion of two major shopping malls — KCC Veranza and SM — as well as several hotels and commercial establishments. (MindaNews)