ZamboEcozone and Freeport
It was 6:00 p.m. Thursday evening when I got the text message from Secr. Peña, "Pls call me urgent." Now it should be obvious that when you get a message like that from your boss, you don't call him right away. You first need to find out what on earth is so urgent! :-)
So I called his executive assistant, and I found out that CICT was being asked to attend an Ecozone Board Meeting in Zamboanga City the next day, a meeting which was to be presided over by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I checked my calendar, decided that the 3 meetings on my agenda could easily be rescheduled, and only then did I call my boss. "Yes sir, no problem, I'm off to Zamboanga tomorrow!"
I got up at 3:00 a.m. to meet Director Wally Rodil of CICT's TelOf at the NAIA to pick up our tickets. We landed at the Zamboanga International Airport around 7:00 a.m. That's him below in the white shirt, walking towards the terminal building.
After breakfast, we proceeded to the 65-hectare Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone and Freeport , which was properly decked out for the occasion. The ecozone was created in 1995 under the sponsorship of Rep. Clara L. Lobregat and then-Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. There is already one IT company located in the ecozone, OMED Corporation, a Japanese-funded SW development company run by 2 engineers from India, and staffed by over 20 local software engineers.
The ecozone has miles of beaches in front and 15,000 hectares of forest highland in the back. There are plans to build residential dormitories for the call center workers envisioned to be operating here in the next few years. Can you imagine it? If you were an agent working here, you could go to work, then afterwards hit the beach or trek in the forest, and get back home in time for dinner!
PGMA arrived by chopper around 10:00 a.m., from the SouthCom base where she had stayed the previous night. We immediately got down to business with a powerpoint presentation by Norjamin Gallardo-Delos Reyes, planning manager of the ecozone. PGMA presided over the meeting of the ecozone board, and it was clear that she had specific objectives for the meeting, specifically how enhance the ecozone's role in the Philippine Cyberservices Corridor.
Rick Santos, president of AMCHAM Philippines and MD of CBRE Philippines praised the human capital potential of the area, then summarized the three concerns of locators: power supply, telecomms infrastructure, and peace & order. Rick, whose father hails from Zamboanga City, and whose mother is an American, promised to assist in preparing a report on the ecozone, which could be used in enticing locators to consider the area for their operations.
The CICT was asked to outline its plans to attract additional cyberservices companies to the ecozone, and we responded by presenting the plans for telecomm infrastructure buildup in the region. We recommended inviting the members of BPAP to visit the area. Finally, we recommended exploring joint ventures with Pakistan call centers serving Middle East countries. These JVs could be initiated as a result of the upcoming state visit of the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
After the board meeting, we had an interaction session with the press. For me this was a chance to chat with Vice-Mayor Maria Isabelle G. Climaco, whose passion is making ICT safe for children. Her website is bengclimaco.8m.com. I also had a chance to renew ties with Fr. Bill Kreutz, president of the Ateneo de Zamboanga University, a source of excellent human capital for future cyberservices locators.
Just as PGMA was about to leave, she was presented with a birthday surprise by Georgina P. Yu, Chairman and Administrator of the ZamboEcozone, and Celso L. Lobregat, Mayor of Zamboanga City. PGMA's birthday is on April 5.
Before returning to Manila, I took the opportunity to visit with CICT's stalwarts in Zamboanga City, NCC Director of Regional Operations Tess Camba, and Telof Region IX Director Mito-on Ibra. I briefed them on what had happened, and both expressed a strong hope that Arabic call-handling employment opportunities for our Muslim brothers would have a beneficial effect on the peace & order situation in the area.
My plane landed in Manila at 7:30 p.m. My wife picked me up and we rushed to the OMI Retreat House in Tandang Sora, Quezon City, where we delivered a talk at the Discovery Weekend for engaged couples. Finally, at 11:00 p.m., I got home and ended the 20-hour day which had started at 3:00 a.m.