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In the nineties, when the Philippine economy was flailing and the country’s reputation was shot, Cebu managed to navigate its own path to growth.

Ravaged by a deadly sequence of strong typhoons, the local governments and business leaders got together to plot a way through the episode of difficulty. Among the initiatives were a strong build-up of infrastructure and the establishment of world-class tourism facilities.

The province made its own pitch for tourism and investments. It advertised itself abroad as “an island in the Pacific” to set it apart from those parts of the country wracked by political turbulence.

That pitch worked. Tourism picked up. Mactan quickly became an important tourism node. The new air terminal in that island became a must-see in itself.

With tourism, investments in other enterprises followed. Strategic reclamation was undertaken to create space for new commercial and industrial districts. Cebu paced the nation’s growth, apparently rising by its own bootstraps. The phenomenon earned for itself the moniker “Ceboom.”

I had the chance to visit Cebu recently, the first time since the lockdowns, to visit SteelAsia’s spanking state-of-the-art plant at Compostela. The nation’s largest steelmaker is betting construction demand in Central Visayas will continue to grow deep into the future. The region blossomed dramatically despite the pandemic. Large hotels and sprawling malls grew like mushrooms. New restaurants made the place a gustatory destination.

Cebu never stopped growing. With that, road congestion expectedly followed. Power supply also seemed stretched, with brownouts frequently happening.

According to the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, locators in Cebu have so far generated P275 billion in investments. Exports rose to about $5.9 billion. About 232,076 new jobs have been created.

Local conglomerates are pouring in additional investments. The Aboitiz group, for instance, is allocating P800 billion to build a new commercial district in Balamban. The place is currently eyed as the new site for the provincial capitol.

In response to representations made by local tourism officials, there is a good possibility that direct flights might