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Caraga expands agri, mining industries

Business leaders in Caraga, which is already known as a world-class surfing destination, say the region is drawing more investors into its fisheries, agriculture, mining and eco-tourism sectors.

"The region has great potential for large-scale investment," said Jake Miranda, president of the Surigao Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "It's business-friendly and peaceful."

Miranda spoke at the recent 14th Caraga Business Conference, organized by the chamber with support from the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, provincial and city governments, and USAID's Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program, under its business growth and development component.

The region has positioned itself as Mindanao's gateway to Eastern Visayas and Luzon, with opportunities in inter-island trade and tourism. Caraga has rich agricultural and marine resources, and is one of the country's top producers of nickel, gold, copper and chromite.

"The business community recognizes that mining is a key factor in Caraga's economic growth," said Miranda in an interview, adding that the Sumitomo Corporation was establishing a mining company in the region and that Philex Mining Corporation is now operating in Boyongan, Surigao del Norte.

Philex chairman Walter Brown's presentation on socially-responsible mining practices was a conference highlight. He said that his firm's community-based development and environmental management programs, which create livelihood opportunities for villagers in host mining communities, had contributed to its success.

Surigao del Norte's mineral assets, which include metallic and non-metallic reserves, are estimated at 3.5 billion metric tons. Nonoc Island, off Surigao City, is known to have the largest nickel deposits in Asia, while large reserves of limestone are to be found in Surigao City.

Another plenary session focused on best practices in private-public partnerships. Alberto Bercasio, president of the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, showed how his chamber's collaboration with the local government had helped improve Naga City's economic climate and turned the area into an attractive business location.

At the close of the two-day event, the business community presented resolutions to Elena Haw, PCCI vice president for Mindanao, summing up proposals for strengthening the region's economic competitiveness.

These included establishing a Bangko Sentral regional office in Butuan City ; setting up a convention and visitors' bureau to be managed by the CARAGA Regional Tourism Council; and declaring Caraga a "retiree-friendly" region.

Caraga consists of the northernmost Mindanao provinces of Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Dinagat, Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur, and the cities of Butuan and Surigao. (GEM-PIA XI)

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