Peace pact signing lures more investments into Bangsamoro area  

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 June) — The Regional Board of Investments of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (RBOI-ARMM) has posted a total of P1.621 billion investments in the first five months of 2014 but investments are expected to reach or go beyond P2 billion before the month ends.

The first five-month issue figure is 158 million more than the P1.463 billion investments the ARMM posted in the four quarters of 2013.

The first quarter of 2014 yielded investments of P1.451 billion and by May reached P1.621 billion with the entry of Agumil Philippines, Inc.’s P170 million Oil Palm Kernel Crushing Plant in Buluan, Maguindanao.

Lawyer Ishak Mastura, RBOI-ARMM chair, says the positive climate brought about by the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on March 27 this year has encouraged investors.

Investments started pouring in after the signing of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) on October 15, 2012. Under the FAB, the parties agreed that the status quo was “unacceptable” and that they would set up a new autonomous political entity called the “Bangsamoro,” to replace the ARMM.

The signing of the CAB is expected to end decades of insurgency and violent conflict in the Moro-dominated areas in Mindanao.

“Investors view this peace agreement as a removal of the major risk of flare-up of violent political conflict and insurgency in the region.  We are bullish that investments in ARMM will exceed 2-Billion pesos this year for the first time as a result,” Mastura said.

In the first quarter, the RBOI-ARMM generated investments of P921.56 million from the Lamsan Power Corporation’s biomass renewable energy investment, P520 million from SR Languyan Mining Corporation’s million nickel ore mining project in Tawi-tawi and ABSCOR Multi-Trading Company’s Php 10 million  import and export trading business in Maluso, Basilan.

Agumil Philippines Inc., a Filipino-Malaysian company engaged in oil palm milling, registered with RBOI in 2006. The firm exports its products mainly to Malaysia. It is operating an oil palm mill with a capacity of 45 tons per hour in Buluan, Maguindanao.

A press statement from the RBOI-ARMM said the firm has accumulated a sizable amount of quality palm kernels enough to process into Palm Kernel Oil (PKO) for export and Palm Kernel Cake (PKC) for animal feeds.

The crushing plant project will be constructed near the milling plant and is expected to generate 500 cyclical construction workers and 54 new jobs.

Aside from being a business partner of over 6,000 oil palm outgrowers in Maguindanao and nearby areas, Agumil is also expected to put up a biomass power plant to support the energy needs of their milling and crushing plants within 2014 or early next year, with the excess power sold to the national transmission grid, the RBOI-ARMM press statement said.

Agumil will be provided by RBOI with a six-year Income Tax Holiday (ITH) at the start of their commercial operations and other fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for the company’s socio-economic contributions to the development of the region.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman’s support for the peace process has also helped encourage investors.

The RBOI-ARMM press statement quoted Hataman as saying that they are “spending heavily on infrastructure programs such as roads, bridges and ports in order to make it easy for investors to bring their products to the market, not only locally but even abroad.”

Hataman’s supposed three-year term of office (2013 to 2016) will be cut short once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is ratified and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority takes over in preparation for the regular Bangsamoro government that is expected to be inaugurated by June 30, 2016. (MindaNews)