SPDA administrator and chief executive officer Zamzamin Ampatuan said President Arroyo through Executive Order 560 signed on Aug. 27 ordered the reactivation. This was announced on September 2 by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, President Arroyo’s representative at the 10th anniversary rites of the signing of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) at the Royal Mandaya Hotel here.
In 2002, Arroyo deactivated SPDA by virtue of Executive Order No. 149 on Nov. 18, amid reported squabbles within the MNLF that reportedly led to its mismanagement.
Ermita said on September 2 that the SPDA will focus on the "socio-economic catch-up plan" for the areas of autonomy. Jesus Dureza, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, told MindaNews after the anniversary rites that the reactivated SPDA is "for the catch up plan for the MNLF."
Ampatuan, the administrator and chief executive officer, is not a member of the MNLF. He serves on a concurrent capacity, as chair of the National Anti-Poverty Commisison (NAPC). Before then, he was chief of the Office on Muslim Affairs. He also served the SPDA for a few months before it was deactivated.
Interviewed by reporters Monday, Ampatuan said they are looking at a proposed budget of P988 million to revive stalled projects and to push through with projects already in the pipeline when it was deactivated.
Ampatuan said they are eyeing around P600 million for the projects in the pipeline like the rice production project in Kabulnan, Maguindanao; oil palm plantation in Butuan City, coconut production in Matanao, Davao del Sur; and the sea weeds processing plant in Sulu.
Ampatuan also proposed that P500 million be allotted for the stalled projects such as feed mill operations in Davao City; organic fertilizer processing in Davao City and Sultan Kudarat; prawn hatchery in Naawan, Misamis Oriental and farms in various areas in Mindanao.
Davao City, Butuan City, Davao del Sur and Misamis Oriental are not part of the ARMM. ARMM comprises the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur and the Islamic City of Marawi.
He said the projects will be reactivated immediately, but this year is the preparatory year. He said they have already contracted business development consultants to do feasibility studies for the SPDA within the year.
Ampatuan described the SPDA as a government corporate entity with a social mission. He said the SPDA will be a parallel effort to peace in Mindanao. He said the SPDA's thrust is to initiate projects in industries and areas where risks are too high for any business to come in.
But Ampatuan said they might start with smaller projects that are also symbolic. He said they will pursue profit-making projects as secondary to its social mission.
Ampatuan said due to pressure from the MNLF, they might allot at least 20 percent of their budget for projects where business risk is too high and rate of return could be nil.
"But we cannot put all our resources in very loose ventures. It is very difficult to monitor those projects," he said.
He said they are in the process of setting priorities among the proposed projects.
Ampatuan said the reactivated SPDA is leaner because it intends to focus resources on business ventures. He said they will employ a "core staff" with only 44 employees in the reactivation including the 17-member caretaker team.
In the past, Ampatuan said the bulk of personnel expenses were in the SPDA structure itself with a total of 1,014 personnel including 800 job order personnel.
He said they will not reactivate the regional offices because the Davao main office will run projects directly.
"We are expecting rough roads ahead of us, starting with the budget," he said. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)