A special report from Manila Times
IN Davao, size has always mattered.
It is one of the biggest city in the world, at 2,443 square kilometers, or 36,916 hectares.
It is home to over 1.4 million people and Mount Apo, the country’s highest peak; the Philippine eagle, the world’s largest raptor; and the waling-waling, the queen mother of orchids.
Seven out of 10 Davaoeños live in the largest urban market in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area.
Claiming to be Mindanao’s de facto capital, it is the country’s southern gateway to the 51-million market Southeast Asian growth hub.
Exports were estimated at $797.6 million last year. Worth $496 million in 2008 and $417 in 2007, local bananas composed 66 percent of the country’s export, the third largest in the world.
In 2008, the major exports were 2.1 billion kilograms of fresh bananas worth $496.2 million; 181 million kg of fresh and canned pineapples; rubber, banana chips, activated carbon, dessicated coconut, gold with silver, tuna, charcoal, coconut oil and cement.
The largest destinations: Japan (41 percent of all goods), the Middle East, China, South Korea and the US.
The top major crops are coconut (212,438 metric tons in 2007), banana (205,333 MT), durian (24,895 MT), pineapple (21,088 MT), mango (9,492) and coffee (4,793 MT).
The city supplies 60 percent of the country’s cut-flower market, nearly a million dozens each year.
With a literacy rate of 95.17 percent, one of the highest in Asia, more than half of its 17- to 24-year-old are in school, again among the highest enrollments in Asia.
It has the country’s highest ratio of colleges to population—with 42 colleges (out of 46 in Mindanao). Three of them are the country’s top 20: Ateneo de Davao, University of the Philippines in Mindanao and San Pedro College.
At any given time, there are more than 94,000 students college students; there were more than 12,000 graduate in 2007-2008, most of them in medical and allied disciplines and business administration.
Employment is almost 90 percent, and the female labor force is one of the highest in the country.
Fiber-optic trunk system with direct dial links, GSM cellular networks, broadband connections are on demand. There are over 300 Internet cafes, 29 newspapers, eight of them daily, 10 television and 51 radio stations.
All leading banks have more than one branch in the city, which is host to 1,620 financial institutions, including 163 bank branches, financing companies and lending firms.
Davao City was the first local government to enact an investment incentive (passed in 1994) for P1 million and above investments employing at least 10 city residents and falling under the preferred areas such as agri-business and food processing; tourism; transshipment facilities; light manufacturing; property development; establishment of foreign bank branches; telecommunications; environmental protection projects; medical, educational, training and sports facilities; and Information and Communications Technology.
Last year, Davao was among the 25 best cities in the country in which to live, work and operate a business.
The Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center cited the cities for the dynamism of the local economy, least cost of doing business, infrastructure, human resources and training, responsiveness of the local government to business needs and quality of life.
Davao was cited as having the least cost in operating a business and with the best infrastructure in roads, bridges, telephone lines, Internet connections and so on.
Among the parameters rated were the average electricity and water rates; households connected to potable water; hospital beds and doctors per 100,000 people; crime solution efficiency; number of banks; average business tax burden per establishment; and the number of businesses. Even the cost and the means of going to an airport were factored in.
In 2007, Davao topped the AIM list of 20 metropolitan Philippine cities. It scored high in the cost of doing business; dynamism of local economy; human resources and training; infrastructure; responsiveness of local governments to business needs; and quality of life (a perfect 10 in the percentage of households with access to potable water).
According to the AIM Philippine Cities Competitiveness Ranking Project 2007, Davao’s strongest points were average travel time to nearest airport/seaport; electricity rate; business tax burden; absence of bribery and fixers; access to commercial banks; qualified job applicants; time to renew a business permit; over-all reliability of electricity and telephone services; and water rates.