Traders score red tape along Mindanao’s highways

Anthony Soriano, MTE executive vice president, said some of their exhibitors, especially those who need to transport raw materials from other parts of Mindanao to their factories or work shops, have complained against bad practice of red tape along the highway via "checkpoints." 

He said the problem has caused cost of doing business by at most 30 percent for food and other perishable commodities and at least 10 percent for furniture. 

He said the call is not new because they had been crying foul about it in the past but they have observed the problem has recurred. 

He said cutting the red tape is among interventions the government has to take to help Mindanao's small and medium enterprises, currently facing shortfalls in demand due to competition with much efficient production in China. 

Soriano, who used to export in his furniture business, said the government should act on red tape alongside with incentives, including subsidies and tax cuts. 

He said in the rural areas, the problem of some of their exhibitors is extortion from the New Peoples' Army, especially in Compostela Valley province. 

But he said in the more urbanized areas, the problem, however is with red tape allegedly perpetuated by authorities. He refused to name specific agencies involved in red tape along Mindanao's highways as reported by their members. 

But he said businessmen have no choice but to give, especially if their products are perishable goods.

He cited, however, that processing business permits and export requirements have been observed to be faster since last year. 

Soriano said among the goals of the MTE when it was put up 11 years ago was to provide venue for Mindanawon exporters to promote their products. 

Mindanao is also a source of quality products, Soriano said. He said, however, that the problems have continued up to present, including red tape and lack of incentives for small and medium enterprises. 

He said the MTE had been a venue to assert the interests of Mindanao's small businesses using conference resolutions. 

But he said there has been not much progress on these concerns, one reason why this year there will be an absence of the resolutions. 

The officials noted stiff competition facing Mindanawon exporters. 

Andres Jolampong, MTE trustee, noted both the positive and the negative impact of the growth of the Chinese economy to local exporters. 

He said on the positive side the big Chinese market is considered a good market because it is a target of local exporters. But cheap Chinese products entering the local market are also hurting the local producers, he said. 

"Regardless of what kind of mathematics we do, we can't compete," he said.

Both officials said the government should help producers by bringing the cost of production down, such as taxation and subsidy for production inputs. 

About 120 exhibitors will showcase products from Mindanao during MTE 2007 at the SM City Entertainment Plaza. It will be held on Aug. 13 to 19, in time for Davao City's Kadayawan Festival, which opens this week. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)