Santiago City in Isabela, “the Queen’s Province,” lies at the crossroads of the Cagayan Valley (Region 2). From Santiago, you can make your way to any part of the region, be it adjacent Quirino, Cagayan or Kalinga and Apayao.
For this reason, the city is known as the commercial hub of the Cagayan Valley.
“There are about 3,000 establishments here, most of them trading companies,” says lawyer Earnest A. Soberano, local economic and investments promotion officer.
“Last year,” he added, “we were able to collect P65 million from the 3,000 establishments.”
The budget for 2012 is P860 million.
The issuance of business permits has also been streamlined, in keeping with a mandate from the Aquino Administration. The process used to take several days, was expensive, and entailed many requirements.
“We have done away with that,” according to Soberano. “You can finish your transaction, that is, get your permit, in 25 minutes. But, based on actual experience, it’s even less than that.”
In terms of cleared checks at the clearinghouse, the volume of transactions in the city is “among the top five in the country,” the city executive shares. “Mas malakas (stronger) ang volume ditto, wholesale. The traders unload their goods here and then distribute these all over the region.”
The preferred areas of investment include:
1.) Labor-generating enterprises and manpower services;
2.) Enterprises to be established in the less developed areas of the city;
3.) Pioneering enterprises;
4.) Agricultural and aquamarine business activities;
5._ Tourism-oriented enterprises and facilities.
Major car dealers like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Hyundai and the Chinese brands have established a presence here; and Ford Mazda is about to join the club.
There are close to 30 banks, national as well as rural; and the major banks like Metrobank, BPI and BDO have two branches.
A Robinson’s mall is set to open here, while the SM-controlled Save More market is under construction. The investments officer quoted a Robinson’s official as saying that “when we come in you can be sure the SM group will follow suit,” or something to that effect.
Places to stay in Santiago include hotels with swimming pools like Gatioan, Wilmer’s, Spring Garden, Aaron and budget hotels like the old Greenview and the new Grace Hill Econosuites.
Up and coming is the resort hotel Charina, named after its owner who started as a caterer, then set up a function hall, and now has a hotel of her own with a swimming pool.
“Even if we don’t have a seaport or an airport (the latter are in Tuguegarao City in Cagayan and in Cauayan City),” Soberano concludes, “the city is a good investment area because of the geographical location.”