DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 1 August) – Socio-economic and business leaders in Mindanao are expecting a surge in investments in the Southern Philippines following the lifting of Proclamation 55 issued by former President Rodrigo R. Duterte, which placed the entire island under a “state of national emergency on account of lawless violence.”
Secretary Mabel Sunga-Acosta, chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), said during the Kapehan sa Dabaw on Monday that with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. lifting Proclamation 55, Mindanao offers a “golden opportunity” for foreign and domestic investors to consider the island as a key investment destination.
She said the lifting is a “good signal” to the international community, sending the message “that there is no state of lawless violence anywhere in Mindanao.”
Marcos issued Proclamation 298 last July 25 as the prevailing conditions for which Proclamation 55 was issued “have been significantly mitigated or reduced.”
The lifting was also intended to “boost economic activity and hasten the recovery of the local economy.”
“This is very significant because it is an official document. It somehow strengthens our position as a player in the economy not only for the Philippines or for Mindanao but also for the international community because they will always look at this as a reference, especially for their travel advisories,” Acosta added.
Arturo Milan, vice president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Mindanao, said the lifting of Proclamation 55 is a welcome development as it would encourage more investors to take a look at Mindanao as a potential investment destination.
He added that it would also boost the island’s economic recovery “by changing Mindanao’s negative image to a positive one.”
More investments and tourists would be encouraged to come and create more employment opportunities and uplift the lives of Mindanawons, Milan said.
“This is the first step towards achieving the elusive peace that we have been dreaming about for Mindanao. The challenge is for each and every Mindanawon to really work hard to sustain this… we need to be peace advocates as well,” he stressed.
Antonio S. Peralta, executive director of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines-Southern Mindanao, said that he also anticipates more investment opportunities coming in to Mindanao.
He noted the island is a “good place to do business.”
“I look at it as – more from the business point of view – the untold story that there is really peace here in Mindanao. Unfortunately, it’s been overtaken by any negative news that may come out of events that we don’t foresee,” he said.
He said that business executives of multinational companies had difficulties visiting Mindanao due to the travel advisories issued by their embassies.
“There is this travel advisory most of the time, and insurance companies will not cover the travel of those executives who want to come here. That itself is one of the things that we hope will go away with the lifting of Proclamation 55,” he said.
In a statement, Acosta said while Proclamation 55 provided “concrete measures to safeguard the peace and security in the island and the daily lives of every Mindanawon, it also critically hampered other equally-important economic activities and opportunities, particularly tourist arrivals and investments in Mindanao.”
She said that “the whole country suffered and lived with the COVID-19 pandemic, which also paralyzed heavily the local economy of Mindanao.”
As the lead agency that provides strategic leadership on socio-economic development in Mindanao, she said MinDA has “seen and felt the immeasurable impacts of Proclamation 55 and COVID-19 on sustaining the socio-economic development across the island-region.”
“The business community is saying they are finding difficulty in elevating the attractiveness of the island for investment and travel, amidst a generally peaceful and safe Mindanao,” she said.
Milan said it was very difficult to invite foreign investors to come because of the travel advisories from the embassies, including, among others, Australia, United States, and some European countries.
“This is really a struggle for investors to come. You know how important investments are in the development of Mindanao. And with the lifting, of course, this will not be an overnight thing,” he said.
Milan added that developments would not come overnight “but progressively as we build on the positive image of Mindanao, then for sure, foreign investments will come.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)