KORONADAL CITY(MindaNews/23 July)— “The key to good investment in Mindanao is the signing of the final peace agreement” between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Datu Haron Bandila, a business leader in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), said in response to the third State of the Nation Address of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
Bandila, chair of the ARMM Business Council, said the President’s SONA was “well understood by the people.”
“We appreciate the SONA of the President,” he said. But he noted that in attracting investments to Mindanao, a key factor would be the signing of the GPH-MILF final peace agreement.
“It is the only way for us to fully convince investors to put in their capital to the (autonomous) region and the rest of Mindanao,” he said.
Vicente Lao, Mindanao Business Council chair had earlier said that the unstable peace and security situation in Mindanao, especially in the conflict-affected areas, is a national issue that “imperils the productivity and competitiveness of business firms in the Philippines.”
“Generally speaking, this condition hampers the escalation of trade and commerce. Conflict does not only increase the cost of doing business, it also affects revenues as it decreases the purchasing power of the consumers,” he said.
In last year’s SONA, the President said nothing about the peace process. But a week later, he met with MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Japan where both agreed to fast-track the peace process.
Bandila welcomed Aquino’s pronouncement on the peace process between the government and the Moro rebels, noting “it’s one of the agenda” discussed in the President’s almost ninety-minute speech.
In an apparent bid to attract investments and tourism in the different parts of the island, Aquino vowed that the Laguindingan airport in MisamisOriental would be operational before his term ends in 2016.
“Before the end of my term, the new Bohol Airport in Panglao, new Legaspi Airport in Daraga, and Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental will have been built. We will also upgrade our international airports in Mactan, Cebu; Tacloban; and Puerto Princesa, so they can receive more passengers; in addition to remodeling the airports in Butuan, Cotabato, Dipolog, Pagadian, Tawi-Tawi, Southern Leyte, and San Vicente in Palawan,” President Aquino said.
The Laguindingan airport is expected to be the main airport serving the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan in northern Mindanao.
Recently, the government invited South Korean firms for the bidding of $13.29 million worth of air navigational system for the Laguindingan airport.
Among the major items needed for the airport upgrade are the instrument landing system, a Doppler radar, a communications system, an automated weather observation system, electrical works for the air navigation system and aeronautical ground lighting system, the Department of Transportation said in a recent statement.
The project was offered to Korean firms since the funding will be coming from loan from the South Korean government, Transportation Secretary Manuel A. Roxas said recently.
For the Philippines in general, Aquino said “what was once the sick man of Asia now brims with vitality.”
He said that in the first quarter of 2012, the country’s gross domestic product grew by 6.4 percent.
“It is much higher than projected, the highest growth in the Southeast Asian region, and second only to China in the whole of Asia,”Aquino said.
He also claimed that “until recently, we had to beg for investments; now, investors flock to us.”
On the labor front, the Aquino administration claimed to have produced in the last two years almost 3.1 million jobs.
“As a result, our unemployment rate is declining steadily. In 2010, the unemployment rate was at 8 percent. In April 2011, it dropped to 7.2, and dropped further to 6.9 this year,” he said. (Bong S.Sarmiento/MindaNews)