BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/4 Aug) – President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, who was supposed to keynote the 21st Mindanao Business Conference Saturday, did not set foot in this city.
Joseph Omar O. Andaya, president of the Butuan City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc. (BCCIFI), said Mr. Aquino’s absence may be due to the “massive flooding” in Metro Manila and several provinces in Luzon that were hit by typhoon “Gener” a few days ago.
“I think one of the reasons why he is not here now is the same reason why Sherwin Gatchalian is [absent] because of the massive flooding in Metro Manila,” Andaya told reporters.
Today, the President was supposed to deliver his speech before the closing activity of the largest annual gathering of business leaders in Mindanao after being presented the 2012 Mindanao Business Policy Agenda and a report on the status of previous policy resolutions crafted by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDa) relating to policies consistent “with the national development goals and objectives” of his administration.
Andaya said it would have been good if the President will come so the conference will be highlighted. He noted that Mindanao was mentioned in the President’s State of the Nation Address because of the apprehensions made in the campaign against illegal logging in the area under the initiative of Butuan Mayor Ferdinand Amante Jr.
Engr. Anselmo L. Sangtian, BCCIFI executive vice president, said that Mr. Aquino is probably “avoiding the activity because of the major issues like mining and logging.” He, however, stressed that the President’s absence is not tantamount to snubbing the business conference. “No it’s not true because we were already informed beforehand that the President may not be able to come,” he added.
Businessman Sergio Pascual, on the other hand, said “we’re still lucky to have Guingona, Pimentel, and Tañada here.” He was referring to Sen. Teofisto L. Guingona III, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, and Rep. Erin Tañada (4th Dist., Quezon).
National Food Authority Administrator Angelito T. Banayo also attended the MinBizCon.
Business observers at the sidelines said the conference does not necessarily have to accommodate top government officials as it will primarily focus on business opportunities and investments for the industry though admitted that the President’s presence could help highlight Mindanao and its potentials.
Secretary Lualhati Antonino, of the Mindanao Development Authority, said the President “doesn’t need to come.”
“First, it’s only now that Mindanao received the rightful, and even more, allocation in the budget. In the past we were getting a small share of the budget, even at the most 10 percent like the one in public works,” she noted. But now “we are getting more than what is needed in Mindanao,” she claimed
Pimentel, who is rumored to join the President’s group in the upcoming local elections, said “let us excuse the President from not attending the conference. I think he has representatives here like Mr. Banayo and Sec. Antonino.”
“The agenda will continue even if the President is not here,” he added. (Vanessa L. Almeda / MindaNews)