General Santos City to be showcased as PH’s next Southern Metropolis in China’s 2nd biggest expo.

An aerial view of the Plaza Heneral Santos.

Positioned to be the next metropolis in Southern Philippines, General Santos City is set to showcase its trade and economic opportunities as the country’s “City of Charm” in the 16th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) in Nanning, Guangxi, China, on September 20-23, 2019.

The local government of General Santos City, also known as GenSan, seeks to highlight their city’s booming agricultural and manufacturing sectors, emerging infrastructure projects, multi-faceted eco-tourism sectors and other promising investment opportunities under the Philippines’ National Pavilion in their second participation in CAEXPO.

“Marking our comeback in CAEXPO is a bigger showcase of the exciting developments and prospects in GenSan which is on the way to become the country’s first Green City and the next southern metropolis,” said General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera.

“We also want to champion our reputation as the undisputed Tuna Capital of the Philippines and fastest-growing city in South-Central Mindanao,” he said. “We hope that this participation will enable our city to attract more foreign investments and provide the much-needed boost to our growing industries that will lead to more local livelihood opportunities.”

Rivera also noted that GenSan is shaping to become a transshipment hub in the Pacific that can host major facilities of a feeder seaport, an international airport, the country’s second largest fish port, and now on its aerotropolis development for its strategic location in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

According to Abdulgani Macatoman, DTI Undersecretary for Trade Promotions Group (TPG), the strategic proximity to the BIMP-EAGA and its agricultural abundance strengthen its position as one of the halal-friendly cities in the Philippines.

“We also want to highlight GenSan as a premier source of halal-certified products and a viable destination for neighboring Muslim countries in this exhibit in China and other Southeast Asian countries,” said Macatoman.

The city was also recently chosen by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to be the Philippines’ pioneer city under its Green City Initiative (GCI) to make it an eco-friendly and livable city through sustainable facilities and infrastructure projects.

CAEXPO is one of the biggest trade events in China with a 124,000-square meter exhibition space—the only international trade fair in the region dedicated to promoting the building of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) and celebrating regional trade cooperation. Last year, the four-day event was participated in by more than 2,700 exhibitors and 96,000 buyers and visitors from all over the world.

Led by the Department of Trade and Industry-Center for International Trade and Expositions and Missions (DTI-CITEM), GenSan is part of the Philippine delegation in CAEXPO composed of local companies, investment promotion agencies (IPAs) and other government offices.

Agriculture and Manufacturing Powerhouse

Agriculture and manufacturing are the key sectors in General Santos City’s rise as one of the epicenters for economic growth in Mindanao.

GenSan takes pride in its sashimi-grade tuna industry as it caught and handled 247,637.20 metric tons of tuna on its fishing port complex in 2018.

The city also holds the world’s largest fish display made up of more than 25,594 kilos of yellowfin tuna in 2014.

“More than 85 percent of total fish landings are yellowfin tuna and other tuna species. Seven of the country’s nine tuna canning plants operate in this southern port city where more than 80 percent of the tuna landings are canned and processed for export,” said Rivera.

Aside from tuna, GenSan is also a major exporter of pineapple, coconut, banana, palm oil, salmon, shrimp, and other seafood and tropical products. The city has also been the preferred destination and gateway of agricultural products in Mindanao, the “Food Basket of the Philippines.”

International Trade and Logistics Hub

Envisioned as the next metropolitan city of the south, GenSan is shaping to be a trade and logistics powerhouse in the international market with its ongoing infrastructure projects under the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program and its long-term development plan to become the Philippines’ first sustainable city under ADB’s Green City Initiative.

Among its trade and logistics initiatives is the establishment of General Santos City Airport Industrial Complex or Aerotropolis which will position Region 12 as a major international gateway in Mindanao.

Also being expanded is GenSan’s seaport, Makar Wharf, to become one of the biggest ports and transshipment hub in the Philippines. GenSan has also recently unveiled a 25-megawatt (MW) solar power plant—the first in the city and considered as one of the biggest in Mindanao.

Vibrant Eco-tourism Destination

“As a city by the bay, GenSan is a watersports and aquatic haven. Tourists can ride through the waves of Sarangani Bay through jetskis, banana boats, paddleboards, skimboards and kayak or swim leisurely,” said Rivera. “They can also take their time to appreciate the wonders of the waters with a pair of goggle and snorkel or a scuba diving gear.”

These activities can be tried out at the city’s Queen Tuna Park and beaches in London, Tropicana and coastal areas along the GenSan Fish Port.

The people of Gensan are also no stranger to merrymaking and cultural celebration as its schedule is packed with colorful festivities all year round. This includes the “Isda-Isdaan Festival” in January, “Kalilangan sa GenSan” in February, Metro GenSan Week in June, and Tuna Festival and National Tourism Week in September, among others.

GenSan is visited by 400,000 to 500,000 local and international tourists every quarter as a gateway to the Philippines’ Region 12 or SOCCSKSARGEN.

From 2016 to 2018, the city also 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 2018, according to a news report.

“We want to sustain GenSan’s momentum by following up their previous participation in CAEXPO last 2016 wherein they were able to meet around 15 interested investors for the joint venture, including a collaboration on the development of the airport and other infrastructure,” said CITEM Executive Director Pauline Suaco-Juan.

The Philippine participation in CAEXPO is led by DTI-CITEM in partnership with the Local Government of General Santos City, Philippine Trade and Investment Centers (PTIC) in Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai, DTI – Export Marketing Bureau (EMB), DTI – Region XI, Foreign Trade Service Corps. (FTSC), Board of Investments (BOI), the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) and other investment promotion agencies (IPAs).♦

Date of Release: 6 September 2019