The planned community-based economic zone to be established in Marawi City is envisioned to be a center for marketing, technical training, and food processing ventures for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to help residents of the war-torn area get back on their feet, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.
Dominguez said the government can help residents set up kilns and foundries that they can rent at low rates to help them manufacture goods and provide them training from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) or the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) using modern applications and technologies.
“We’re not talking of an ecozone that is tax-free. It’s not like that. It’s just providing the structure so that they can actually practice their trade in a modern and organized way,” Dominguez told finance reporters.
Besides livelihood training, Dominguez said the residents at the ecozone will be given advice on marketing their goods both traditionally and utilizing digital technology. They will also be provided with free Internet service so that they can engage in online selling.
“The [ecozone] can be run by the local government. So we’ll just provide the place where there’s also training and there’s advice on marketing. In fact, I’m going to suggest that they can even do food processing there,” Dominguez said.
The finance chief said the ecozone could start from a 10-hectare area in the city with kilns, small foundries, warehouses, and other facilities needed for manufacturing that people can share and rent at affordable rates.
Dominguez said that if the plan for the Marawi ecozone goes well, it could be the start of a bigger plan to have large companies provide technology to MSMEs in the city, similar to the setup in Japan where car parks are built by small companies with the aid of bigger firms.
This big brother setup, Dominguez said, could be a model for other local government units to follow in the future so that they can set up manufacturing hubs complete with facilities and warehouses for small businesses in their respective communities.
“That can be the start of that—where you have a big company that is providing technology in the market for small companies to process. So it can develop into that. And the government’s role will be to provide the land, the buildings, the water and the electricity,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez had briefly detailed this plan as part of the rehabilitation program for the war-torn city in his meeting last November with top officials of the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. (SMBC) led by its Group CEO and president, Takeshi Kunibe.
In that meeting, Kunibe expressed SMBC’s willingness to assist the Philippines in its reconstruction and rehabilitation program for Marawi, and congratulated President Duterte on his administration’s successful effort to liberate the city from the influence of ISIS-inspired extremists.
President Duterte created last July an interagency task force chaired by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that will spearhead the recovery, reconstruction and rehabilitation program for Marawi City.
Although the Department of Finance (DOF) is not a member of the Task Force, it is involved in the fund-raising aspect of the program, with Dominguez revealing plans last August for the Bureau of Treasury to sell “patriotic” bonds to aid in Marawi’s rehabilitation.
In an earlier meeting with Dominguez in Washington DC, World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva reaffirmed the institution’s commitment to work with the Philippine government in helping conflict-torn Marawi City rise from devastation, along with scaling up support for peace-building efforts in Mindanao.
Georgieva said the World Bank can provide technical aid and other forms of assistance to the Philippines to help rebuild Marawi City.
Georgieva also agreed with Dominguez’s plan to tap domestic resources to raise funds for Marawi’s reconstruction, which, she said, was “the right thing to do” and underscored the importance of “inclusive development” as a key aspect of the rehabilitation strategy for the city.