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Friday, 12 May 2017 14:09

BEHIND  THE  LINES

BY BOB JALDON

Regina, Sask, Ca. — If it isn’t fake news, then the story that SM is hiring store managers, etc. for its newest mall to rise in Zamboanga next year will bring not only enthusiasm but more importantly employment — in the same way as KCC did almost two years ago. If it goes as planned, it’ll take no less than two years to build the complex.

Similarly, a Global Trade Exhibition Centre will rise in this city (Regina) which will serve as the hub of Asian imports. If all goes well, the first two of six buildings should be completed next February. The concept is that 300 Asian businesses will be based on site to import and distribute consumer electronics and home-building materials, and export Saskatchewan food products.

Meanwhile, in the course of the construction, 100 new jobs will be created. This hub will be a foreign trade zone, which comes with exemptions from sales tax and duties. Take note: FOREIGN TRADE ZONE.

Why am I bringing up a seemingly irrelevant event that has nothing to do with Zamboanga? Bear in mind that the Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority and Freeport (Zamboecozone) was created during the time of President Ramos through the sponsorship of Mrs. Maria Clara L. Lobregat because it would have been linked to three of our Southeast Asian neighbors for trading purposes under the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Asean Growth Area). Zamboanga would have been the hub of import-export businesses.

In 2001, Zamboecozone had the chance to be a hub of import-export products in Mindanao. It secured a locator, an east-Indian, to open a duty-free shop in San Ramon. A customs clearance area was going to be operationalized. But the plan did not go through because the character of the investor was found to be dubious, having been tagged as one of the big-time smugglers in the Philippines.

The point is: Zamboanga needs new businesses, import-export outlets and income-generating sources up and running that will bring in more jobs and other spin-offs like entertainment for local and foreign tourists that will increase hotel bookings.

We are headed towards federalism and, therefore, self-sufficiency in all aspects as there will be less funding from the federal government to the “Free State of Zamboanga”. Starting now, we will have to create our own revenue resources. One sure-fire revenue-raising business is the operation of a CASINO.

Years ago, we had one at the mothballed Zamboanga Plaza Hotel operated by a Marcos crony. The gaming place closed during the ascendancy of Cory Aquino. Four years later, Pagcor proposed to reopen the casino. But the clergy, led by former priest Crisanto dela Cruz, vehemently objected to its reopening. When some Filipino-Chinese businessmen met with billionaire Lucio Tan, the owner of the hotel, he allegedly said that he will reopen the hotel only if a casino is allowed be operate therein.

Seriously, City Hall and the representatives of the two congressional districts should revive negotiations with Pagcor to reopen the casino in Zamboanga on a regulated scheme, pretty much like Singapore, to generate income and attract local and foreign tourists.

Opening up new businesses will do well for Zamboanga. If the SM plan pushes through, it will raise monetary optimism for a rising city that is now venturing on aggressive infrastructure. Those in charge of navigating the Zamboecozone ship should initiate the revival of the BIMP-EAGA.