Aquino was in Cebu to attend the Regional Economic Manager’s Briefing and Dialogue at the Cebu City Mariott Hotel, which was participated in by around 200 businessmen in the region and local government officials.
The President emphasized anew the role of public-private partnership in implementing infrastructure projects, one of the seven key issues raised by business groups in Central Visayas in an economic briefing here.
In his five-minute speech to more than 200 participants from business groups and government agencies, President Aquino said the redevelopment and upgrading of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport was one of the priority projects listed under the public-private partnership program of the government.
“We want to hear from you on what other infrastructure projects you think are needed in Cebu so we can say that we can be an engine of economic growth,” Mr. Aquino told businessmen and entrepreneurs.
President Aquino also said the government was “seriously considering liberalizing air transport” to facilitate travel around the country.
“This is the essence of public-private partnership I was talking about in my State of the Nation Address, that working together, government and business can achieve mutual goals that benefit the entire nation,” the President said.
Seven key issues were raised by the business chambers of Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor and Negros Oriental. They involved infrastructure, tourism, fuel and power costs, the establishment of mass transport system, the realization of the Panglao International Airport project and the building of Cebu-
However, the President said the proposed Cebu-Bohol Friendship bridge was quite ambitious as it would cost P20 billion.
The business sector also asked for the implementation of P4.4 billion worth of infrastructure projects for drainage improvement, national road widening, concreting and rehabilitation of roads, the construction of flyover and rehabilitation of the first Mandaue-Mactan bridge.
The Cebu businessmen also appealed for a reduction in fuel prices, explaining that Cebu’s pump prices were higher compared to those in other parts of the country.
They also called for a reduction in electricity prices to make Cebu more investor-friendly and for government to provide stable and sustainable power at the least cost from the investors to end-consumers.
On the other hand, Arroyo’s economic team headed by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said they have to identify what infrastructure projects were needed by the businessmen in the region.
Purisima considered Cebu as the best model of an economic improvement that cuts across various sectors, namely tourism, export and business process outsourcing.
“What’s happening in Cebu is part of what we want to happen in the entire country. In terms of tourism and creative economy, your designers and furniture makers are taking the lead,” Purisima said.
He also recognized Cebu as a leader in shipbuilding (through the collaboration of Aboitiz Group and Tsuneishi) and semi-conductor production.
In a separate presentation, Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said Cebu should not remain complacent with the assurance that there would be a 300-megawatt excess capacity by the end of the year.
“The biggest setback is to sit down and do nothing after this. The challenge for Cebu is to build more generating capacity for the growing demand,” Almendras said.
Meanwhile, the police here had to make adjustments in providing security for the President because of the latter's refusal to use sirens.
At least 300 traffic enforcers were deployed to ensure a smooth flow of traffic.