ARMM investments up 1,548%

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/24 May)—Registered investments in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for the year so far rose at least 15-fold owing to the entry of a telecommunications project worth P1.5 billion, officials said.

Ishak Mastura, chair of the ARMM Regional Board of Investments (RBOI), said the agency approved last month the telecommunications project of EA Trilink Corp, causing the impoverished Muslim region’s investment climate to spike by 1,548%.

“This is a remarkable turnaround of the investment climate in the region considering that last year investor confidence in the region was negatively affected by the [Ampatuan town], Maguindanao massacre on November 23, 2009,” he said in a statement.

The carnage left 58 people dead, 32 of them from the media, and is considered as the deadliest politically-related violence in the country’s contemporary history. Certain members of the Ampatuan political clan have been tagged as suspects in the manslaughter.

Mastura also noted that investors’ confidence in the region last year was lackluster due to the delayed resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Formal amity talks under the Aquino administration resumed only last February in Kuala Lumpur, with Malaysia again brokering the negotiations.

Last year, Mastura said, investments registered at the RBOI reached only P91 million, which includes a biomass power project in Maguindanao and a construction project in Tawi-Tawi.

The autonomous Muslim region also consists of the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Sulu and Basilan and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan.

Mastura said that EA Trilink’s project has the potential to generate 6,000 jobs for the E-centers that would provide the region’s population access to web resources, e-mail and voice calls.

With this type of investment, “the time is ripe for businesses to thrive in the region,” Ansaruddin Alonto-Adiong, acting ARMM governor, said in an earlier statement.

EA Trilink will utilize satellite uplink to connect the region as it has done in a similar project in Cambodia, Mastura said.

He noted that with the peace talks gaining ground under the Aquino administration, potential investors are beginning to look at ARMM in fresh terms while existing investors are looking at expanding their enterprises.

Mastura said that banana and pineapple industry players in the region have expressed intentions to expand and to register these investments with the RBOI.

Also, some corn, cassava and palm oil processing plants are planning to invest in biomass power plants to save on higher energy costs.

Mastura said that last year a cornstarch processing company completed its P176 million biomass power plant that was registered with the RBOI in 2007. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)