Is unity likely among feuding biz leaders in Mindanao?

Estrellita Juliano-Tamano, new PCCI Mindanao area vice president, said during the Club 888 press conference at the Marco Polo Hotel here that "the door is open for unity".

But she also cited the possibility of filing a case against MinBC officials.

PCCI officials said they are off from the MinBC, which cut its ties with PCCI through an amendment of its by-laws on Oct. 23. MinBC chair Romeo Serra told reporters an hour later a prospect of reunification is nil with "win-win solutions already over".

Both Tamano and Serra, however, said they have to "move forward" even if the latter accused the former of "double speak". Serra said the agenda of PCCI and MinBC are different. Like the PCCI officials, Serra said the MinBC is focused on "helping drum up development in Mindanao".

It was the new PCCI officials' first public appearance after Serra's resignation as PCCI Mindanao area vice president on Oct. 19 in a tiff on the reconfiguration of Mindanao's chamber regions. Seven PCCI regional governors resigned with him.

The tiff was based on the allegation that PCCI unilaterally decided on the reconfiguration and the reduction of Mindanao's chamber regions from eight to five. The Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. have bolted the PCCI since.

While Tamano said she is willing to meet with DCCCII president Bienvenido Cariaga for unity talks, another PCCI official said the chamber should not impose any condition. Edwin Capili, PCCI regional governor for Western Mindanao, said they (DCCCII) have to respect the elections and the reconfiguration of chamber regions.

PCCI has urged DCCCII to organize other chambers in the Davao provinces so they could work out a region of their own. DCCCII was lumped with the chambers in General Santos and other cities in Southwestern Mindanao in the reconfigured chamber regions.

On Oct. 30, Serra said Mindanao's organized business community would likely change in the aftermath of the disaffiliation.

Serra said a coexistence between PCCI and MinBC affiliated chambers in Mindanao is a possible outcome. But he noted it could lead to their affiliation to only one chamber group in the long run, either it is MinBC or PCCI. He did not elaborate.

He said DCCCII's "bold decision" gained the respect of Mindanao's other chambers. PCCI has maintained the chambers have not shifted loyalty.

The new PCCI officials said they doubt if chambers would affiliate with MinBC. DCCCII has not reconsidered its disaffiliation amidst an attempt by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for unification.

Capili said MinBC may not even get one chamber and that chamber affiliation is not in their (MinBC) by-laws. "They have to show the structure how it is possible," he said.

Interviewed Oct. 21, Sotero Trinidad, president of the Federation of Business Chambers in Mindanao (FPCM), told MindaNews they are not bolting PCCI, debunking reports other Mindanao chambers were following DCCCII's move. Trinidad said FBCM members, smaller chambers in Mindanao, could benefit from PCCI.

Serra said earlier there are 20 chambers in Mindanao that has not affiliated with PCCI. PCCI president Donald Dee said they have at least 19 chambers with them. According to PCCI, of Mindanao's 43 chambers, only 28 are active and paying annual dues.

PCCI has pitched for "seizing global opportunities" for Mindanao as the new officials go around Mindanao. Tamano, who claimed that PCCI used MinBC for funds to Mindanao, said she is scheduled to meet with international donor organizations to explain the situation and assert their leadership.

Serra, in earlier pronouncements, said more international organizations have flowed in grants and projects to Mindanao via MinBC, not with PCCI.

Serra said they will pursue their plans to help boost business in Mindanao "even without the tentacles and shadow of PCCI".

Ed Sutherland, project director of a Canadian funded program involved in capability-building projects for small and medium enterprises, said the rift between PCCI and MinBC diminishes their collective role that can be achieved if they are united. But he said they will continue to work with both of them despite the rift.

Tamano said they are ready to work to unite the fragmented business community in Mindanao and will push for the development of Mindanao's business chambers.

Flanked by four of five new regional chamber governors, she said they will start their work with the holding of four chamber management and competitiveness workshops with Mindanao's business chambers.

In the past, the PCCI Mindanao area vice president sits automatically as the MinBC chair. Serra did not give up the post upon his resignation from PCCI as the MinBC announced the revision of its by-laws, cutting its ties with PCCI.

Tamano has questioned the validity of the revision of the MinBC by-laws, received and approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Oct. 23. She said it was illegal and was a "brazen attempt at perpetuating themselves at the MinBC".

Tamano, in a letter to SEC Manila requesting for a probe on the "hurriedly approved" by-laws, questioned the cooperation of SEC-Davao officer-in-charge Javey Paul Francisco.

Francisco, in a telephone interview with MindaNews, denied connivance with MinBC. He said MinBC passed first the by-laws on Oct. 11 and was returned to them on the same day for corrections and compliance of some requirements.