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BICOL BUSINESS MONTH: Bongat cites gains in trade; bares new Naga dev’t plans

By Jose B. Perez, Editor NAGA CITY --- A new city police office will rise in a new site while Magsaysay Avenue, otherwise known as the city’s food and entertainment strip, will undergo redevelopment and re-greening before his term ends, according to Naga City Mayor John G. Bongat. Bongat was the guest of honor during the press conference hosted by the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) on Monday, July 3, at Avenue Plaza Hotel and at the formal opening the next day, on July 4, of the annual Bicol Business Month at SM City Naga. Some concerned citizens had woken up in horror one morning when they found out that the old big narra and acacia trees along Magsaysay Avenue had finally been cut down -- literally to pieces -- to give way to the road widening project of the Department of Public Works and Highways. The city mayor said they have already inked the deed of donation for 3 hectares of land from the 17-hectare property of the city government along Almeda Highway to be used as site for the new police office to be built by the Philippine National Police. Within the site will also be located the city government-run City College of Naga, Land Transportation Office, equipment and field office of the Metro Naga Water District, and other offices that need bigger spaces, the mayor added. Mayor Bongat, together with DTI Regional Director Joy Blanco, formally opened the 3rd Bicol Business Month Tuesday afternoon along with MNCCI President Gilbert Albero and BBM 2017 Chairman Ferdinand ‘Dondon’ Sia. At the meeting with the local newsmen earlier, Bongat emphasized the city government’s continued support to small and medium scale enterprises which, incidentally, is the focus of the annual business month that he said have been aggressively fueling Metro Naga’s economy. He acknowledged Naga’s emerging reputation as the financial capital of Bicol because of its strong trading and retailing industry spawned by local entrepreneurs and as shown by the city’s robust banking industry. Now, we are also becoming the automotive dealership center in Bicol that although some of the plants are situated in nearby Pili, the province’s capital town, money from car dealership transactions are actually fused into the Naga city banking system, Bongat said, even as he added that the impressive huge average daily balance in commercial banks here makes Naga among the Top 25 robust cities in the country. He also noted that at least 70% of subdivisions throughout Bicol, especially the new ones by nationally-known developers and real estate brokers, such as Vista Land and the Ayala Group, are in Naga. Homeowners in these subdivisions, many of whom are sustained by OFW dollar remittances, local business observers said, are the big consumers of basic commodities being supplied by the big malls and local business establishments, aside from clients from adjoining towns that comprise the Metro Naga area, and those from other cities and provinces of Bicol. The city mayor, who just arrived home from Germany for the Global Mayors Forum, also revealed that IBM, one of Naga’s BPO locators, had finally landed as among the Top 20 taxpayers in Naga, affirming the company’s Naga operations’ profitability and employment generation capacity. Lest he may be misconstrued, Bongat said he is for the enhancement of other industries in other parts of the Bicol region. “We must encourage the competitive edge of each province (in Bicol) because they will all positively contribute to our regional development,” he said. Each of the Bicol city and province has its own strength that we do not have and may not have, he said, as he explained that Legazpi City will remain to be the regional administrative center of Bicol with its soon to be completed international airport while Sorsogon will be known for their Butanding and impressive scenic spots for years to come. “No one can have a monopoly of everything,” he cautioned his audience. Director Blanco, for her part, expressed optimism that more opportunities for development will come in Bicol in the next few years with the international airport and the railroad project still in the new administration’s pipeline. She said our country’s youth will play a major role in the global market in terms of manpower resources because of the ageing population in other richer countries. “The average age of our young population is 21 years, while those in Japan and the United States and other developed countries, their average working age population is either 30 to 36 years old who will be in their geriatric [or less productive] period in the next few years,” Blanco said. Ferdinand ‘Dondon’ Sia, chairman of this year’s Bicol Business Month, said the activities lined up for the month-long celebration will highlight the different products and services, as well as trends and technological advances in the business sector. “The primary goal is to encourage local businesses to become more competitive in terms of product quality and innovations while at the same time educating our consumers to appreciate and promote our own products as a way of helping contribute to our region’s socio-economic development,” Sia said. “This way, we all become part in putting Naga and Bicol in the economic and business road map so that more investors would take interest and come to do business with us,” he explained.

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