KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 05 July) — Investments generated in Soccsksargen (Region 12) sharply dropped by 96.42 percent to only P69.13 million in the first quarter of 2020 as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic reared its ugly head in the country, data from the National Economic and Development Authority-12 (NEDA-12) showed.
For the same period last year, the region registered investments worth around P1.93 billion, indicating that the investment for the first quarter of 2020 was down by P1.86 billion.
In a regional economic situationer, Teresita Socorro Ramos, NEDA-12 director, reported that the Board of Investments registered only a single investment in the region during the first three months of 2020.
She identified the region’s lone investment as the Treelife Coco Sugar, an exporter of banana chips located in Carmen, North Cotabato, which generated 168 jobs.
Rommel Tanghal, NEDA-12 planning division chief, said investors adopted a wait-and-see attitude as the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in Wuhan in central China last December, spread to other countries.
“Investors became cautious during the first quarter as the signs of a global COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold,” he told MindaNews in a telephone interview on Friday.
In mid-March, President Duterte ordered a lockdown in the capital Metro Manila to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which other regions also eventually imposed to combat the virus.
Tanghal expressed confidence the investment climate in the region will improve once measures to defeat COVID-19 are adequately put in place.
Citing past investment trends in Soccsksargen, he said some investors find the right timing when to pour in their money.
“Sometimes, investments would just be a trickle in the first quarter but in the second, third or fourth quarter, there would be huge investments coming in,” he explained.
Tanghal said the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19, composed of various national government line agencies and local government units in the region, has already approved the regional economy restart plan for implementation until the end of the year.
The COVID-19 lockdown from mid-March to May brought economic activities in the region to a standstill with businesses shutting down and sending workers out in the streets jobless, he noted.
The region has been under Modified General Community Quarantine since June 1.
According to Tanghal, the regional economic restart plan, which reiterated health protocols such as wearing of face masks and social distancing, aims to bring back businesses on their feet as well as restore consumer confidence in the “new normal” triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Region 12 straddles the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani and the cities of General Santos, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Koronadal, the regional center and the capital of South Cotabato.
Manufacturing, agriculture and fisheries largely fuel its economy, with canned pineapple and fresh and canned tuna products among the region’s top dollar earners.
As of 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, Soccsksargen has 73 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 44 recoveries and two deaths. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)