Updated 08:56 AM PHT Thu, March 2, 2017
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — A British trade mission sets its sights on Davao to look for business opportunities--according to the British Chamber of Commerce Philippines, which expects to bring representatives from more than 20 companies on March 30 and 31.
In a press conference on Wednesday, the chamber announced the investors will meet with the city government and local business groups--then visit economic zones and homegrown industries during their stay. There will also be networking sessions for British and Filipino companies looking for Davao-based partners.
"We've had significant interest. I think we'll get a good cross-section of companies," British Chamber Executive Chair Chris Nelson told CNN Philippines.
Mindanao is getting a lot of attention from foreign investors, he explained. The region has always had abundant natural resources waiting to be tapped. But more recently, President Rodrigo Duterte - former Davao City mayor - has pushed for greater development in the regions, especially Mindanao.
Davao already acts as a key economic hub for the Philippines. In 2014, it was the fastest-growing region in the country, expanding 9.4%.
Companies are particularly interested in investing in agriculture, the traditional strength of Mindanao. Of the region's $5 billion in exports in 2015, $1.75 billion came from bananas and coconut oil, British Chamber data showed.
Investors are also keen on up-and-coming sectors like energy, infrastructure and information technology. The Chamber pointed out, Mindanao is home to 34 economic zones, offering incentives for businesses to set up their operations there.
Nelson admitted investors also harbored concerns about the business environment in Mindanao. The region has a shortage in power supply and is regularly hit by blackouts, he noted. Terror groups and insurgents have also been responsible for a string of hostage-takings, bombings and other attacks.
However, the British Chamber is confident the government is moving to address the issues. Power plants are being built across Mindanao and experts estimate the region will soon have an oversupply instead. The military is also doubling down efforts against terrorists.
"Other concerns of investors include, how to do business in Mindanao, how to find a local partner there," Nelson said.
"But at the same time, investors also have a lot of belief in the growth story of the Philippines, and how that story is being extended now to regions like Mindanao."
In the last two years, the British Chamber has helped over a thousand companies from the United Kingdom scope out the Philippines for investments. These include getting contract referrals, market introduction and research, as well as trade missions.
Four investment deals have been sealed since 2014, involving software firm PayWizard, plastics manufacturer Symphony Environmental, liquor maker R&B Distillers, and skincare brand Yllume.
The UK is the Philippines' largest European investor. In 2015, it poured in about $384 million, central bank data showed.