Cebu City — Residents and visitors are looking forward to the continuation of the Christmas season with the feast of the Holy Child or Santo Niño de Cebu. The feast culminates on the third Sunday of January with the Sinulog Grand Parade.
Looking further on especially since PRworks is marking its 10th year on March 23, 2014, we are attempting to make sense of what this New Year offers. This is the first list of 10 things, meaning there are more coming.
If you have stayed with me this far, then you might as well read on.
1. REBUILDING VISAYAS
Government and the private sector, especially international donors, will be pouring billions of pesos into reconstruction and the rehabilitation of Yolanda-ravaged communities in the Visayas and parts of Luzon within the next few years.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said rebuilding will reach 2017 and cost a total of P361 billion — P183.3 billion in housing and resettlement costs, P28.4 billion in rebuilding public infrastructure, P37.4 billion in financing education and health services, P18.7 billion for agriculture, P70.6 billion for industry and services, P4 billion for local government, and P18.4 billion for social protection.
Some P34 billion has already been allocated for the critical immediate actions while another P100 billion is earmarked for 2014, said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, who is also NEDA director general.
Although there are fears that the massive expenditure will stretch government finances, this will pump prime local economies in the calamity-hit areas from Samar-Leyte, northern Cebu, northern Panay including Boracay, to Coron in Zamboanga.
Because Cebu’s central location and infrastructure that includes an international airport and seaport, it became the center for the post-Yolanda relief efforts of both government and private groups. For these same reasons, it will also be the center for this massive effort to rebuild Visayas especially this 2014.
2. UPLIFTING LIVES
We have seen the massive display of volunteerism to help and uplift lives after the 72-magnitude earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda. Though largely spontaneous, broad networks like Bangon Sugbohol emerged. Local volunteers from the private sector and civil society linked up and likewise networked with their counterparts from abroad. We expect this trend to continue and reach a certain level of organization and sophistication this 2014.
This trend will be aided by the willingness of businesses to realign budgets to corporate social responsibility and good corporate citizenship. More are realizing that public relations work best when it seeks to uplift lives.
In addition, the pork barrel controversy and reports of alleged corruption in the government’s relief and rehabilitation efforts like the bunkhouse controversy make private sector efforts more credible and trusted.
The anti-corruption movement has apparently touched on a sensitive nerve as it is now proving to have a very long shelf life after the first One-Million-March in August 2013.
The Cebu Coalition Against the Pork Barrel System, even after two months of primarily going into relief operations, began 2014 with a general assembly hosted by Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma. Among others, the group has succeeded in linking up and showing leadership in uniting the various groups in Metro Manila and attracted 70 local organizations.
The continued push for transparency and accountability would be appreciated even supported by a growing portion of the business sector because its leads to level playing fields in various industries.
4. SENIOR CITIZENS
The controversy over Cebu City’s financial assistance to senior citizens on demonstrates how this sector has become significant to local politics. After all, majority of our senior citizens are respected elders of extended Filipino families.
Note too that the large baby boomer generation has turned or is turning 60 soon. Theirs is a generation that is living longer than previous generations, more conscious of their health, and displayed a penchant to stay, look, and feel young.
Having earned more than previous generations, the baby boomers — locals and foreigners — will have set aside enough to try their hand at becoming an entrepreneur or moving around as tourists.
Despite the boom in hotel construction, booking a room in a hotel, resort, or pension house during the Sinulog week is still next to impossible.
For one, returning foreign and domestic visitors have learned to book months ahead. Two, hundreds of foreign aid volunteers are still in Cebu. The rest of the year, local tourism officials are looking forward to more foreign arrivals. Let’s consider the following:
- The opening of more international flights like AirAsia Zest’s Cebu-Kuala Lumpur, Cebu-Kota Kinabalo, and Cebu-Incheon at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport;
- The fast recovery of tourism in neighboring Bohol;
- The steady growth of tourism arrivals even after the magnitude 7.2 earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda;
- The expected visit of 23 luxury cruise ships at the Cebu port.
6. BPO WORK FORCE
The race to attract business process outsourcing companies is changing the skyline in Metro Cebu, including once suburban cities like Lapu-Lapu.
BPOs are being attracted to this highly urbanized metropolitan center so-close to the beach in central Philippines but at a much lower cost of living. With some 100,000 now in the growing BPO industry, it is indeed absorbing most young graduates and providing stiff competition for skilled labor in Metropolitan Cebu.
Some 70,000 are in call centers while the rest are in non-voice business process management companies. Officials expect this to grow in 2014. The growing army of BPO employees has also become an emerging formidable market.
Imagine this. The average monthly pay of BPO employees is P20,000. These young adults are spending their income not just on food in Jollibee, or liquor at 7-11, or the expensive gadgets they bring around. This means they are practically pouring P2 billion into the local economy each month.
And we have not yet included those individuals and teams hired directly by foreign companies.
7. SOCIAL MEDIA
Companies and brands cannot anymore ignore engaging the vast audiences in social media. People today would rather go to and ask friends and relatives in social media about products and services.
One, they need to listen to what customers are sharing about their businesses. Two, they need to tell their stories to sell not just their products, but more important, their ideas. Third, they need to engage and build online communities. Fourth, they need to be there with the right information when people look for them.
While more senior citizens are going into Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends, more teenagers and those in their 20s will populate Instagram in 2014.
Born between 1980 and 2000, they belong to the so-called generation Y or the millenials. Growing with their gadgets, social media is a natural home and outlet for expression and connecting with friends and beyond. They are now embracing Instagram as a means of connecting because they are more visual and spontaneous.
While startups create billionaires aside from jobs for millions abroad — think Facebook, Google, Instagram when they first started — Filipinos wanting to become the next Mark Zuckerberg are largely misunderstood and unsupported.
When top government policymakers talk about the ICT industry, they only consider BPOs and foreign investments that generate jobs here. Only a few enjoy funding from private investors.
Nonetheless, Filipino tech entreprenuers and developers who began building local startup communities in 2011 are unfazed. Groups like techtalks.ph founded by mavericks like Tina Amper are growing. The Startup Weekends spread to the Visayas and Mindanao and led to the first Geeks on a Beach conference in Boracay last September 2013. Aside from businesses, local developers likewise built systems to help in the rescue, relief, and rebuilding efforts.
Fortunately though, there are enlightened government entities supporting these emerging startup communities like the Dept. of Science and Technology (DOST) and the University of the Philippine Cebu. Filipinos who succeeded in Silicon Valley like Diosdado Banatao and Winston Damarillo are extending local startups a helping hand.
Come August 2014, these startup communities are looking forward to crafting a startup roadmap in cooperation with DOST during the second Geeks on a Beach conference in a bid to create waves of fast-growing Filipino-owned global businesses. “Will wait still later or are you riding the wave with us in 2014?” they ask.
10. ASEAN 2015
Are Filipino industries ready to face strong competition from the rest of Southeast Asia flood the local market starting 2015 when the Asean Economic Community (AEC) takes full effect? The AEC means freer flow of investments, capital, labor, goods, and services. Local brands need to shape up now to be able to compete. This makes the 10-member nation ASEAN a formidable market of over 600,000 people.
However, AEC also means stiffer competition as strong brands going regional enter and face brands in local markets.
For Robert Go, Cebu chapter president of the Philippine Retailers Association, the AEC presents both opportunities and threats. He advocated more information campaigns during the 2013 Sari-Sari Store Festival.
Some Filipino brands are already well-positioned for regionalization. The 2007 book “Think Asean” by marketing guru Philip Kotler, Hermawan Kartajaya and Hooi Den Huan already cited Filipino champions like Goldilocks and San Miguel Beer.
However, expect more to scramble in 2014 as the deadline approaches.