Security issues still a concern for Australians exploring investments in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 27 May) — Security issues remain a concern for Australian businessmen and more work is needed to encourage them to take a look at other places in Mindanao that are relatively safe, Australian Ambassador Amanda Gorely said.

“We still have some work to do to encourage further Australian interests and investments in Mindanao… Security might be a concern. Obviously, I feel very safe here. Davao City itself is a safe place to be,” she told reporters at the SMX Lanang Activity Center Saturday night to celebrate the Philippines-Australia Friendship Week.

She explained that there’s a need to correct the misconception about safety in Mindanao that tend to make an impression of Mindanao and even the entire country being “under a siege situation.”

“We need to work hard to overcome those perceptions people have when they read what’s in the newspaper,” she said.

Gorely said some Australian businessmen in Manila are expanding outside the capital, an indication of an openness to look for alternative places like Cebu and Davao.

“Once they come in the Philippines, they realize that it’s not just all about Manila, there are opportunities in other parts of the country, too,” she said,

A briefer released by the Australian Embassy last May 21 said there are 280 Australian companies in the Philippines, from business process, finance, professional services, oil and gas exploration, and resources and infrastructure. From 2017 to 2018, total Australian investments were estimated at A$85 million or equivalent to P3.381 billion.

It said private-led Philippine investments in Australia were valued at A$1.3 billion or equivalent to P51.714 billion and noted an increased appetite by the Filipino businessmen to invest in complementary sectors in Australia such as food, agribusiness, and infrastructure.

It also said that the implementation of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) in 2010 eliminated tariffs in key categories such as wheat, beef, and milk and cream, increasing the two-way trade across a wide range of product lines between Philippines and Australia by around 70 percent.

In 2016, the two-way trade in goods and services reached A$4.3 billion or P171.054 billion.

Gorely also said there’s huge potential for Mindanawons to export chocolate, coffee, and mango to Australia.

“There’s huge potential because Australians love chocolate and coffee. I think this also a premium on products from other countries that are different and a little bit exotic. I think Philippines could market that brand and difference to Australian market,” she said.

She said some of the products produced by Mindanawons are created as an application of what they learned in Australia through their scholarship program, the Australia Awards.

“A number of cacao farmers are here today. They benefited from scholarships provided by Australian government. They’ve gone to Australia to learn about marketing, packaging and bringing products to the market,” she said.

“Over the years, Australia has worked with Mindanao on education, with a third of our Australia Award scholars coming from the region. We will continue to support the Philippine Government’s goals through our development programs supporting stability, peace and prosperity,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)