By Allen Estabillo
GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- The year 2018 was another leap forward for this bustling port city as it continued to exceed expectations and achieve key milestones, especially in the socio-economic front.
Despite security challenges, the area’s trade and investment scene sustained its momentum as seen with the surge of commercial and property developments these past months within the main business district and emerging growth zones.
These include the entry of new manufacturing plants and the opening of commercial establishments, fast-food chains, convenience stores, restaurants and hotels, among others.
The city, which is considered as Region 12 or Soccsksargen’s main commercial and trading center, remained a bright spot for the region economy-wise, drawing hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis.
In fact, the area’s population, which is listed at just over 600,000, doubles during the day mainly due to its economic activities.
These gains mainly ushered in better opportunities for the locals, especially the rising middle-class sector, which remained resilient amidst the rise in consumer prices during the first three quarters of 2018.
“Our economic situation was very robust these past months. The middle-income class is rising -- those that are capable to finance or buy their homes and finance or buy their cars,” said Leonard Flores, chief of the City Economic Management and Cooperative Development Office (CEMCDO).
Most of the city’s economic sectors posted positive growths during the year but there were some that stood out and turned in significant contributions.
Citing their assessment, Flores said the manufacturing and retail sectors emerged anew as among the top contributors of the local economy.
Early this year, Gaisano Mall completed its expansion project and unveiled a bigger shopping area and more modern amenities.
The city’s three other malls -- SM City, KCC Mall and Robinsons Place -- have also initiated improvements to keep pace with the competition.
Over a dozen 7-Eleven convenience stores opened in various spots in the city while SM Retail was reportedly gearing up to establish more Savemore stores following the successes of its existing outlets in Purok Malakas, Barangay San Isidro and Barangay Calumpang.
Last week, leading home building supplies retailer Wilcon Depot opened its first outlet in the area in Purok Palen, Barangay Labangal.
Tuna, salmon industry
Tuna, which anchored the city’s economic boom three decades ago, remained a top dollar earner for the area despite facing serious challenges with the dwindling supply and limited fishing areas.
The city exports fresh, chilled and canned tuna products to the European Union (EU), United States and other markets.
In the first half of the 2018, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said the tuna exports to the EU alone reached USD 171.86 million.
As of the first week of December, the total fish landing at the city fishport complex in Barangay Tambler reached 201,556 metric tons (MT), down by 9,205 MT from last year’s unloading of 210,761 MT.
The city, which hosts seven of the country’s nine tuna canneries, fishport remained the top fish producer among seven other fish ports.
Aside from tuna, the city has emerged as a key player in the export market for processed salmon.
Salmon processing started in 2011 with the opening of a plant here of Big Glory Bay Salmon and Seafood Company Inc., a subsidiary of Alliance Select Foods International Inc.
Flores said several other processing facilities have since emerged and maximized their operations not only for tuna but for salmon as well.
“Salmon is being delivered to our plants here as raw materials and mainly processed into smoked products,” he said.
He said exporters from New Zealand mainly selected the city as processing site for salmon due to its proximity to the export markets.
Salmon landings in the city are currently enjoying zero tariffs as part of the country’s free trade deal with Australia and New Zealand.
Dev’t projects, social services
Real estate and property developments also remained in high gear this year, sustaining a trend that started about eight years ago.
CEMCDO records showed that nine hospital projects, mostly expansions, are due for completion by next year.
The eight-story Sarangani Bay Specialist Medical Center, the first high-rise project approved by the city government, is almost 90 percent complete and slated to open in early 2019.
Two other major hospital expansion projects are ongoing -- the cancer care centers of the Saint Elizabeth Hospital and the General Santos Doctors Hospital.
Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings Inc., which had forged a partnership with Saint Elizabeth, invested around PHP300 million for the project.
Several other major property development projects are lined up in the city for 2019.
DMCI Holdings is reportedly investing an initial PHP115 million for the construction of a 10 to 12-story hotel and condominium building that would be attached to the SM City mall here.
“It will be the first condominium project in the city. The lower floors will have a hotel and the upper part will be for condominium units,” Flores said.
Two more 10 to 12-story buildings, which he described as “twin towers,” will be built in a property adjacent to the Saint Elizabeth Hospital here.
“Local property developments were almost non-stop in the last several years but the potential for growth is still there, especially for low-cost housing and real estate rentals and accommodation facilities,” Flores said.
He said the city needs more investments for hotels, inns, pension houses and resorts due to the increasing demand.
Citing their records, the city currently has more than 100 accommodation facilities that translate to a total of 3,657 rooms.
Data from the Department of Tourism showed that around 400,000 to 500,000 tourists visit the city every quarter.
In the last three years, the city has emerged as the top venue for conferences and conventions outside of Metro Manila.
It hosted a total of 900 local, regional, national and international gatherings in 2016, 920 in 2017 and 970 from January to November this year.
“We’ve been overwhelmed by these developments this year and the city government has been working double time to make the city more ready and capable to embrace them,” he added. (PNA)
Jan 19, 2019 0Staying true to its promise of bringing the services closer to the people, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) has opened its 67th branch in Agusan del Sur recently. “Napakalayong lugar ito kaya nga dapat magkaroon ng isang branch doon para mabigyan ng tulong ang ating mga kababayan...
Jan 19, 2019 0