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Cebu City thrives on tourism, services, manufacturing

Cebu City — Robust economic growth is not just being felt in Metro Manila, as tourism, manufacturing and services are registering solid growth in Central Visayas—particularly in Cebu, the Queen City of the South. As with any boomtown, the city's population is expanding as residents from nearby cities and provinces are now choosing to try their luck there, looking for jobs or starting businesses, and many have decided to move and live there for better economic opportunities. Margarita Angana, 60, who sells street food near establishments and construction sites in Cebu City, has noted a huge difference in her daily sales of banana cue, puto maya and softdrinks after she moved from Negros Oriental to Cebu City. “It’s different in... [Negros Oriental] where customers are just about a handful. Here in the city I have many customers, mostly construction workers. The number of people in the city is increasing,” she said in Bisaya. While growth is often most felt in urban centers, “people from other places still benefit from it,” said Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Alan Maderazo. “Maybe there is little that you see in the actual business establishments being set up outside of Metro Cebu, but I think people outside of Metro Cebu are coming to Metro Cebu to get employed,” he said. Real estate and BPO Based on data from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA 7), Central Visayas is one of the “fastest growing economies” in the country, with the industry and services sectors comprising 36.4 percent and 55.8 percent, respectively, of the region's economy, agriculture sector accounting for 7.8 percent. “Industry and services continue to drive the region’s economy. The GDP growth rate was 6.6 percent, and we expect that our region grew more than 6.6 percent. In the past that has been the trend,” said NEDA 7 Assistant Regional Director Efren Carreon. Tourism is another major driver of the Cebu economy, with Central Visayas being the second most visited region by foreigners in 2011. The bulk of the business sector is comprised of the real estate and the business process outsourcing (BPO) subsectors. In Cebu City, IT and BPO employs around 95,000 people, while close to 2,000 were employed in  Dumaguete City’s IT Park in 2012. In the manufacturing sector, Cebu's 270 locators and establishments earned $3.6 billion dollars in export sales last year. NEDA 7 noted increased construction business in the region, with close to 7,000 condo units launched in Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu in 2012. Poverty remains a challenge Despite Central Visayas' present economic conditions, however, poverty remains a problem in the region—and for economic growth to be inclusive and felt by more people, NEDA 7 said, it is important for the business sector to closely cooperate with the public sector. “It’s really ironic... despite the good performance of the economy, [there are still many] people who are considered poor. This is a continuing challenge especially for us in government so that the economic development will really trickle down to the poor or the marginalized sector,” said Carreon. “Cebu is now getting to be more and more important as a gateway to the south, so more businessmen are locating themselves in Cebu. But that is only one component. The economic drivers that we’d like to see is really the tourism, ICT, BPO as well as creative sector,” said CCCI's Maderazo. Development projects in the pipeline are expected to further boost the region’s rising economy, including the upgrade of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport—a major public-private partnership project of the government. In Bohol, plans are afoot to build a new Panglao Airport and the North Road Project in Dumaguete City. — BM/VS, GMA News
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