Wednesday, March 27, 2013
|English: Map of Cebu showing the location of Balamban (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Balamban 20 years ago and now !
How Special Economic and Export Zones transform a sleepy Farmtown into a bustling Place.In 1990 Typhoon Ruping devastated entire Cebu and left Parts of the Island powerless for weeks. Not that that really mattered much in a then sleepy town on the West Coast of Cebu named Balamban.
As a traditional farming town with no significant economic importance the People were used to frequent brownouts and power shortages. Life was slow and cozy in those days, just one Bus daily connected the sleepy Town to the City on the other side, with many stops along the way it took more than 8 hours to get there. People send the maid to the Highway to flag the bus down and only when it arrived, which was not always the case, they gathered their things and got on slowly. Nobody bothered, as time was a commodity in endless supply.
There were a handful of cars only, the Infrastructure consisted of one Road, the National Highway, with more or less developed dirt roads connecting to it.
The main Industries back then was Fish Farms and Agriculture. For the more wealthier there was only one way for their children- send them to Manila or Cebu into the colleges to find work in those cities or overseas and then hope to see them once a year during the fiesta. For the common Population there was no choice, they remained.
This all changed rapidly when in 1992 The Aboitiz Group of Companies and Tsuneishi Holdings of Japan decided to form the West Cebu Industrial Park (WCIP).
WCIP is registered as a Special Economic Zone under the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA). Its locators are enjoying the tax incentives and other privileges being a PEZA-registered import/export enterprise. Those commonly called "Export-zones" have the Advantage for the International Investors, that they can gain 100 % control over their investment and also enjoy lots of tax privileges.
In the humble beginning there was only a small shipwreck facility employing some hundred people from other places and nonody really noticed until environmental concerns brought up controvery and the facility was closed.
The Town Hall was worried, there only chance of getting into the 21 century seemed to diminish, but luckily the Japanese stayed put by their pledge and did not abandon the Town.
Also the Aboitiz Group themselves started to Joint Venture with a British Shipbuilder from the United Kingdom, Babcock Marine, and started to build FBM designed Alumimium Catamaran fast craft ferries.
Other industries from Germany and France followed soon, and now the Export Economic Zone provided direct Work to about 16.000 people and countless others in the towns support sector.
One can truly say, that Balamban now has full employment, a long lost dream of many Industrial Nations.
The sleepy and boring days are over, the Town now has a full developed Service Industry of Restaurants, Hotels and Entertainment.
Its is connected with the Metropolitan Centre of Cebu City by a 44 km modern and fully lighted (!) Highway across the Mountain Ridge, providing a fast less than one hour ride with nth V-Hire Vans.
Some People even commute to work to and from Cebu City.
When the Author came to Balamban in 2002 , there was only one nationwide Distributor of Appliances and Motorcycles, renting a 20 sq meter stall next to the Restaurant. Sales was still slow, but now there are about 50 (!) of those Appliance and Motorcycle.
Signs of the new wealth.
Housing is now rapidly developing, three story commercial building shoot up everywhere. Subdivisions, both low cost and High end, are available all over town.
The tourism and Entertainment also does not sleep, with Racetracks (!), Mountain resorts, Fine diners and Live Music Places featuring bands from Cebu City.
people do not have to send their Children to school over the mountains or into the cities, as there are 2 universities having set Camp in Balamban.
Luckily this growth has had no negative Impact. The Industries strictly observe not only the Philippines, but also their own Environmental standards, and due to the Economic Security there is also an almost Zero Crime Rate.
The downside ? Maybe the traffic rush hour- but I doubt anyone complains about this twice daily little inconvenience.
One can truly say, that the "experiment" of Placing 'Work" into the Province has worked.
And hopefully this will be seen by the leaders of this Nation and put into Place all over the Rest of the Country, or maybe even Nationwide.
This Article was also published in 'The Manila Herald" :