Cebu still a regional economic powerhouse

By Amy R. Remo

March 4, 2024 02:42:00

Beyond a global fame rooted in heritage treasures and stunning beaches, the province of Cebu has long and rightfully gained renown as a regional economic powerhouse.

Hailed as the country’s premier business destination in the Visayas, this island province has transformed remarkably over centuries—from once being a trading post in the colonial era to becoming a center of trade, commerce, and tourism in Visayas, owing to its diverse, thriving industries, conducive business climate, improved infrastructure, and highly skilled workforce.

All these have undoubtedly positioned Cebu as an attractive, progressive destination. And this is fairly evident in its flourishing commercial landscape, with the steady influx of investors and the emergence of modern retail centers, premium grade offices, and mixed-use developments. Now more than ever, Cebu is a fertile ground for growth, investments, and expansions.

Vibrant economy

One need only to look at the numbers to see proof.

The so-called “Cradle of Christianity in the Far East” is part of Central Visayas, which was the fourth largest economy in the country in 2022, based on data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). During the period, the region posted a gross regional domestic product (GRDP) of 7.6 percent, having produced P1.29 trillion worth of goods and services.

Cebu, in particular, is among the top 10 provinces with the largest contributions to the national GDP in 2022, according to PSA. Its economy is currently being driven by diverse industries that include agriculture, tourism, real estate, retail, manufacturing, IT and business process management (IT-BPM), shipbuilding, among others.

Sustained growth

Several factors are helping support and sustain the growth of these industries in Cebu.

Ongoing improvements in infrastructure, for one, ensure accessibility and connectivity across the province. Among the more recent completions include the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Terminal 2 and Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway (CCLEX), which have significantly improved the flow of goods, passengers, and services.

Upcoming projects like the Metro Cebu Expressway and Cebu Bus Rapid Transit System will meanwhile further connect more towns to the capital, Cebu City; help reduce travel time; and address the transport challenges that often come with a growing economy.

Other advantages include ease of doing business in Cebu and availability of a highly skilled workforce, which in turn have encouraged the continued development of business parks, economic zones, mixed-use developments, hotels, and premium grade offices.

Aggressive expansions

In 2023 alone, some of the country’s top real estate developers held launches and announced plans to build new masterplanned mixed-use developments, estates and townships, IT and business parks and even more offices.

Rockwell Land, for instance, unveiled last year the 2.8-ha IPI Center, its third project in the province, following the highly successful 32 Sanson and Aruga Resort and Residences-Mactan. Here, it plans to create a modern neighborhood and a lifestyle destination replete with exclusive residences, premium grade office spaces, retail offerings amid refreshing open spaces.

Other national developers, too, are ramping up their plans, with one building a new, two-level convention center offering close to 10,000 sqm of space, ideal for the meeting, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) segment. Another firm is looking to build two IT parks in Cebu City to accommodate the strong demand from locators. These proposed IT parks—which can offer about 80,000 sqm of new office space and create about 15,000 jobs upon completion—will add to the growing list of business parks in the province.

Homegrown Cebu-based developers are meanwhile bringing international partners for their residential and hospitality projects here, whereas outsourcing companies like Concentrix are further expanding in Cebu, fueling demand for prime offices, while generating fresh job opportunities for the region.

According to Colliers Philippines, Metro Cebu remains as one of the most attractive expansion hubs outside Metro Manila for outsourcing firms in the Philippines, leading other provincial sites in terms of office space take-up in 2023.

On top of these, Cebu province has been seeing continued launches of both horizontal and vertical residential projects, ranging from economic housing to luxury developments.

Thriving and progressive it may already be, Cebu still holds great potential for further growth as seen in its continuously expanding, dynamic commercial landscape. Cebu is undoubtedly poised to continue playing a pivotal role in propelling economic growth and progress  in the region.