DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 December) — Business leaders in Mindanao have laid down a five-point advocacy agenda for government to consider to help hasten the recovery of business activities and uplift the status of displaced Meranaws in war-torn Marawi City.
Ruben Begafria, trustee for Mindanao Business Council (MinBC)-Northern Mindanao, presented the five-point advocacy agenda before members of civil society organizations, local government units and business executives attending the MinBC 2017 Annual General Membership Meeting and Partners Forum at the Marco Polo Hotel Davao last Friday.
These are: support and help the immediate resumption of business activities in Marawi; encourage formal and legitimate operations of business; institutionalize interventions for entrepreneurial education; intensify business support services and programs; and, support and endorse the recommendations raised by the Metro Marawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (MMCCI) to the inter-agency Task Force Bangon Marawi.
Among the recommendations of the MMCCI is to request the Task Force Bangon Marawi to create a “special body” that will conduct an official assessment of actual damages to private properties and business establishments; provide just indemnification to all victims in the business sector; immediately resume business transactions by establishing a temporary public market; and, request for safe conduct pass to enter and salvage undamaged goods and merchandise.
Begafria said the five-point advocacy agenda will improve government efforts in the rehabilitation of Marawi by aiming to “craft policies sensitive of the needs of the community in the context of rebuilding and rehabilitating from all the damage caused by the war.”
He said what the business leaders aim to achieve is to create a “blueprint of actions” that can be replicated in any market and city, which showcases a robust and business-friendly community supported by government and civil society.
MinBC chair Vicente Lao said the five-point agenda is a set of “very concrete suggestions to government that will bring a lot of good for Marawi.”
Resume economic activities
Begafria said supporting the immediate resumption of economic activities would complement relief operations of the government, simplify the processes for business that would boost early economic activity for micro, small and medium enterprises, and provide supply-chain environment for primary commodities with “preferential rates.”
The MinBC also proposed a “one-year moratorium on business loans and repayment and interests, streamline process and provide accompaniment on loan and credit applications, and facilitate link access to suppliers that can provide preferential rates.”
“More importantly, creating a network of suppliers to businesses will create an efficient business matching environment,” he said.
Begafria urged traders to register their businesses to formalize their operations because it is difficult to assess economic performance of Marawi without the data.
He said formalizing their businesses will also benefit Marawi by way of revenue generation to finance social services.
“Every year, more and more revenues through taxation are being missed due to lack of legitimate and formalization of many businesses,” he said.
Begafria added there is a need to improve access to business coaching among those who want to engage in businesses by providing regular capacity building on entrepreneurship, skills and technology where established business people will provide mentoring and internship opportunities to new entrepreneurs.
Begfaria said MinBC wants government to intensify support and programs to create a sustainable environment and resilience system for businesses to thrive and grow.
An improved business support mechanism will create a well-endowed opportunity for them to increase their financial flexibility, innovate on their craft, engage in advantageous joint venture projects, and take part in public-private partnerships, he said.
Begafria noted government may consider imposing tax relief for two years on business and real property taxes; assistance on market development and linkage; assistance on product development; encourage private sector to undertake join-venture opportunities; and, consider public-private partnership projects.
Soliaiman Matonding, MMCCII vice president, said government needs to pour in more support for the business sector as they can help hasten Marawi’s recovery.
“In reality, it is the business sector that will make the progress in any city, in any country. The progress of developments, the indicator of which is the progress of business sector,” he said.
He said government must hasten the release of aid to small-scale businesses in the Marawi “doing business and starting build up.”
Bigger budget for Marawi businesses
A 3,600-member Marawi Internally Displaced Persons Association was created Thursday last week to unify the voices of the private sector displaced by the five-month long fighting between government forces and Islamic State-inspired Maute Group. Matonding sits as association President.
Matonding said the business sector of Marawi decided to come up with a “unifying force” that will negotiate with government in the rehabilitation and recovery of the country’s lone Islamic city.
He asked government to allocate a bigger budget for the business sector in Marawi.
“We are hearing of billions of pesos from different international donors and also from government. Billions of pesos that will be spent for rehabilitation of Marawi but there is a very, very small portion allotted for the business sector,” he said.
He said they are requesting government to help them build a temporary “padian” (public market) as a temporary commercial center for goods and other merchandise.
Lao said this is a “good chance to start from scratch,” as he urged government to increase its presence there by putting up national agencies. Lao noted that even before the May 23 siege happened, Marawi had lacked “institutional set-up” conducive for the business community to thrive. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)